By Geri Gibbons -

New York’s minimum wage plans echo in Wyoming Valley

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McDonald’s fast food restaurant on Kidder Street in Wilkes-Barre.
Pete G. Wilcox | Times Leader


    WILKES-BARRE — Bill Heck sat a McDonald’s in Edwardsville on a recent Sunday morning admiring the abundance of work being done within the establishment, making it possible for him to sit quietly, at a clean table, drinking a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper.

    Heck, of Luzerne, responding to recent news that Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers in New York to $15 an hour over the next several years, said he believed that the minimum wage should be raised across the board, not just for those who work in fast food.

    “Perhaps if someone is just starting out or in high school, they might be able to get by on a lower wage,” he said. “But, in general I think they should raise it.”

    By the numbers

    For adults making an attempt to put together a successful, albeit simple, life and pay their bills, minimum wage seemingly just doesn’t cut it.

    Even at $8 an hour, slightly above minimum wage, an employee can expect to clear about $200 per week or about $800 per month working 30 hours per week.

    With an averaged un-subsidized rent for a one-bedroom apartment hovering in the area of $500 for the Wyoming Valley, its seems implausible that those receiving minimum wage or even slightly above it can experience long-term success.

    Worker’s words

    A fast food worker employed in the Wilkes-Barre area who asked not to be identified, listed all her expense which included rent, transportation, toiletries, paper goods, cell phone bill, medication, cigarettes, and food.

    As the 28-year old, who lives on her own, looked over a hastily sprawled budget, she said: “I feel bad about the cigarettes. I could probably stop smoking cigarettes.”

    Those seemingly were the only expense that could be cut.

    Should Cuomo get his way, fast food workers in his state will not have the same problem.

    His plan to gradually increase the minimum wage for fast food workers will affect about 200,000 New Yorkers.

    According to the Associated Press, the increase was endorsed Wednesday by a Wage Board that the governor convened after unsuccessful attempts to raise the minimum wage across the board before the state’s legislature.

    The plan awaits formal approval from the labor commissioner and critics say that targeting one specific demographic, the fast food industry, attempts to avoid the legislative process.

    Cuomo cited the inflated corporate profits of multinational companies such as McDonald’s, which unlike other operations, can afford to increase amounts paid to employees.

    The increase would be phased in over three years in New York City and over six years in the rest of the state. It would apply to any fast-food company with 30 or more locations in the state.

    Federal scene

    Federally, it seems raising the minimum wage has been a long time coming.

    This past Friday marked six years since the federal minimum wage was last increased in 2009.

    Some businesses have come forward with their contention that raising the minimum wage will not only be good for employees, but good for businesses and the economy in general.

    According to the website of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, comprised of business and executives supporting a federal minimum wage increase to at least $12 by 2020, “The minimum wage impoverishes working families and weakens the consumer spending at the hear of our economy.

    The website continues, “Raising the minimum wage makes good business sense. Workers are also customers. Minimum wage increases boost sales at local businesses as workers buy goods and services they could not afford before. And nothing drives job creation more than consumer demand.”

    Many Pennsylvania residents are hopeful Gov. Tom Wolf’s support of legislation to increase the minimum wage will provide an impetus to raise the state’s minimum wage for all workers.

    Opponents have been quick to voice fears that any increase will cost jobs for residents of the Commonwealth.

    The Employment Policies Institute, according to their website, says research shows that raising the minimum wage hurts the least-skilled and least-experienced jobs seeks the most, projecting that should a $10.10 standard be enacted in Pennsylvania, it would cost 30,000 Pennsylvanians their jobs.

    Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLGGibbons.

    By Geri Gibbons

    McDonald’s fast food restaurant on Kidder Street in Wilkes-Barre.’s fast food restaurant on Kidder Street in Wilkes-Barre. Pete G. Wilcox | Times Leader

    Reach Geri Gibbons at 570-991-6117 or on Twitter @TLGGibbons.