ABA Talks Minimum Wage With NY Governor, Plus Other Minimum Wage Updates

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This week, John Hutchison of the Open Door Bookstore & Gift Gallery in Schenectady, New York, and two American Booksellers Association staff members met via phone with staff from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to discuss New York State’s proposed minimum wage increase.

Here is an update on that story, as well as some of this week’s minimum wage stories from around the country. ABA is encouraging its members to reach out to town, county, or state officials to ensure they have a voice in any minimum wage discussions that take place in their communities. 

New York: ABA and Open Door Bookstore Meet With Governor’s Office

On Monday, December 7, John Hutchison, owner of the Open Door Bookstore & Gift Gallery in Schenectady, New York, together with Dave Grogan, ABA’s senior public policy analyst, and Dan Cullen, ABA senior strategy officer, participated in a conference call with representatives from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. The call focused on the governor’s proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour

During the call, Hutchison, Grogan, and Cullen emphasized that, while ABA does not oppose increasing the minimum wage, it is crucial that the governor’s office include small businesses such as independent bookstores in relevant discussions moving forward.

“It was a very productive and encouraging call,” said Grogan. “The governor’s office concurred that small businesses should have a say in the ongoing discussion regarding minimum wage. Clearly, this is good news. It shows how crucial it is to get involved early in the discussion so that any minimum wage increase will be founded on sound economic principles. We look forward to an ongoing, open dialog with Governor Cuomo’s office.”

During the call, Hutchison provided information that he hopes the governor and legislators will consider as they move forward. Noting that a $1 increase in wages would require a significant increase in sales, he explained,  “We cannot increase our prices, since books come pre-priced. The price of books can only go down from the pre-price amount.” Moreover, he continued, “Our minimum wage jobs are part-time and are filled mainly by students or retirees, who are not dependent on the job for their livelihood. If the minimum wage increases much more, these jobs will no longer exist.”

Oregon: Region-Based Minimum Wage Bill in the Works

Oregon State Senator Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), chair of the Senate workforce committee, plans to propose a bill in February that would set different regional minimum wage rates based on cost of living and median income, as reported by the Portland Tribune.

The senator hopes that a legislative fix might curtail a contentious battle over minimum wage at the ballot box in November 2016, the article noted. “Our hope is if we can pass it in February, that the campaigns will stop collecting signatures, and they’ll feel comfortable with it,” Dembrow told the Tribune. A legislative work group is researching issues to consider when setting a minimum wage. “What became clear from that was we needed to do something that is not one-size-fits-all. We needed to take into account cost of living and economic vitality in different parts of the state.”

Senate workforce committee members plan to have details ready in time for a public hearing on January 14.

Washington: Seattle Businesses Take Steps to Accommodate Minimum Wage Increase

The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported on how the phase-in of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage ordinance is affecting various city businesses — and the steps some businesses, including The Elliott Bay Book Company, have taken to handling the new requirements. On January 1, the minimum wage for employees of Seattle companies with more than 500 workers will increase to $13 from $11, while small business employees earning the minimum wage will see their hourly earnings increase by $1, to $12 per hour.

The CHS blog interviewed Tracy Taylor, manager of Elliott Bay and a presenter on the Minimum Wage panel at the upcoming Winter Institute, who reported that the store’s sales are looking strong enough to cover next year’s wage increase. “The real question is going to be long term over the next few years, but no one knows the answer,” she told CHS. “Yesterday, I spent an hour on the phone with three bookstore owners from San Francisco and St. Louis discussing the minimum wage issues in their cities. It was fascinating to hear what they’ve done and where they are.”

Taylor said she also wished City Hall had done more to promote the importance of keeping local dollars local since the minimum wage increase only affects Seattle.

The Coastal Kitchen, a Seattle restaurant, will increase menu prices by about four percent in 2016, owner Jeremy Hardy told CHS blog. “We have re-engineered our scheduling in the back of house (kitchen, typically the most difficult area to adjust as this is the power plant) as well as the front of house. The real increases start in the following years when the increases will require a more potent elixir of adjustments to be determined.”

One business, Retrofit Home, is already paying its employees $12 per hour, but when the wage goes beyond that, owner Joe Milazzo told the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog: “We won’t offer part-time jobs for students or entry level into our industry, you will only be able to work here coming in with a complete skill set. So that sucks all around.”