Locals react to impending minimum wage hike

wwny Locals react to impending minimum wage hike

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - For the fourth year in a row, the state's minimum wage is set to increase. That will happen at the end of this month. Governor Cuomo is touting the raises, saying New York state is seeing the benefits. But, some people here in the north country say they aren't.

As the minimum wage has increased in New York, Shuler's Restaurant in Watertown has had to cut back in order to keep its doors open.

"We've had to make a lot of changes. We ended up closing an extra day on Tuesdays. Now we're closed two days a week. I try to cover as many shifts as I can because people don't understand when payroll goes up, so do our payroll taxes, so do our workers comp insurance, disability insurance, they all go up," said Terry Williams, owner of Shuler's Restaurant.

On December 31, minimum wage will increase another 70 cents to $11.80 an hour. That comes after a new state report indicates that the pay raises haven't hurt the economy. The report says that unemployment rates are down and businesses have adapted to paying more without having to shed workers.

While Williams says he hasn't had to cut jobs yet, local economic officials say other businesses have.

"We've had certainly retail and restaurants and a major call center leave the area," said Cheryl Mayforth, executive director, The WorkPlace.

That call center being Concentrix in downtown Watertown that left this summer - a loss of 465 jobs.

Still, Governor Cuomo is touting the raises, saying they're getting people out of poverty, allowing people to ditch multiple part-time jobs and giving more families a chance to live better lives.

But the Urban Mission in Watertown, isn't seeing evidence of that. Its food pantry is seeing record numbers and is busier than last year by 30 percent. More people are also coming to the organization with greater needs, like financial assistance with housing and help with paying bills.

"If you work for a smaller employer, I think they've been impacted at least in my opinion, they've been impacted my minimum wage and have cut owner so we're seeing a number of folks that are piece mealing several part time jobs in order to try to stay afloat and it's just not enough to manage the household finances," said Dawn Cole, executive director of the Watertown Urban Mission.

Now with the minimum wage about to raise again, business owners like Williams say they are going to have to make more changes.

“You can’t keep raising prices. You just cut your own throat then. People will stop coming in so we’ll have to find some other creative ways to cut down on labor costs,” he said.

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