LETTER: Minimum wage vote a failure of democracy

Editor, The Spotlight:

Let’s do some math regarding the recent hike in the state minimum wage.

The number of Democrats elected to the State Senate: 33.

The number of Republicans elected to the State Senate: 30.

The number of senators who said they supported raising the minimum wage right away to $9 and hour: 32. A majority.

The percentage of New York voters who supported raising the minimum wage: 80 percent. A majority of whom wanted a raise closer to $10 that to $9.

Republican voters by 2-to-1 wanted a minimum wage hike.

Then how did we come up with a minimum wage hike of only $8 an hour this year? Senator Jeff Klein. And his IDC group. Five Democrats who gave power to the minority Republicans in order to make “democracy work” better.

How much money will low income workers lose by delaying the minimum wage hike to $9 an hour over three years — and then no indexing? $1.2 billion. Maybe more. Money that could have been used to feed their family. Or pay the landlord or utility company. Or buy clothes. And tip workers were dropped. They now have to wait for the Labor Department to rule on a new wage order.

Republican senators wanted a subminimum wage for young workers. No one else did. So what did the other three men in the back room agree to? The first tax credit in the U.S. to subsidize employers — including Walmart, McDonalds and Burger King — if they hire young workers at the minimum wage.

The cost to taxpayers: $20 to $40 million a year — or more. No one really knows. But it creates incentives for employers to increase the number of low wage jobs that it fills with teenagers paid exactly the minimum wage rate.

What does Sen. Klein get as a reward for his new math? A bigger office, a higher lulu.

This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

Mark A. Dunlea, executive director of Hunger Action Network of New York State

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