Wages: Plan may tip the scales

Restaurants have always been a risky business proposition.

For every one that becomes a fixture, there are dozens that struggle. It is this environment into which Gov. Andrew Cuomo is treading with his intention to possibly eliminate the credit that allows employers to pay tipped workers less than the state’s minimum wage.

Cuomo has directed the state labor commissioner to hold hearings about the possibility as part of an economic justice agenda. A news release from the governor’s office states that more than 70 percent of all tipped workers are women, studies have shown African-American workers are often tipped less than their white counterparts and that tipped workers experience more sexual harassment than non-tipped wage employees.

Increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers will help some, but not all. And it certainly won’t help owners of small restaurants already operating on a razor-thin margin. We hope the issue hasn’t already been decided — as was the case with the governor’s push for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The hearings were nothing more than a dog and pony show. The wage increase was happening no matter how many business owners testified against it and regardless of what facts, figures, statistics and studies said about the issue. The best that could be done was mitigating the wage increase by phasing it in and making the minimum wage less in more rural areas of the state.

Larger paychecks would surely help some restaurant workers. But it is likely there will be fewer restaurant jobs to go around. That has been the case with increases in the minimum wage. Many businesses have had to do the same jobs with fewer employees as the minimum wage has increased. Restaurants will likely do the same; entrepreneurs will choose not to open a restaurant in the first place — at least, they’re likely to think twice about opening one in New York state.

Seven years ago, Cuomo launched the “New York Open for Business” marketing effort to convince people that New York state was friendly to business. It’s nice to see that slogans are more important to the governor than actually being open for business.

According to the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, the state spent $86 million on the “New York Open for Business” campaign through 2016. Do the policy actions undertaken by the governor even come close to the campaign’s rhetoric?

You decide.

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