Back in 2009, the minimum wage was $7.25 per hour. Today, it stands at $10.50 for small businesses, defined as fewer than ten employees, and $11 for larger companies.
The steady rise is part of the state’s goal to increase wages for workers yearly until it reaches $15 in 2020. Local businesses say they are already starting to see the impact.
Frank Ottamanelli, owner of S. Ottamanelli & Sons Prime Meats in Woodside, said he’s trying to manage his business without raising prices. He said he is also concerned for his customers.
“The minimum wage increase is an extra cost to my business,” Ottamanelli said. “I don’t think it’s the right time to raise the prices on my meat because we don’t want to burden our consumers with higher prices because the cost of living has increased.”
Sang Han and his daughter Jeong Hee Choi run Lucid Cafe, also in Woodside. They said they have not raised prices yet, but they may be forced to in order to cover the increased pay for their seven employees.
“The government doesn’t pay our employees, we do,” Choi said. “There is no benefit for the business owners and this is not a way to solve our economic problem.”
Café Vine at 150-13 Northern Boulevard in Flushing had to raise the price of coffee 25 cents to help cover the wage increase for employees.
“The minimum wage increase is hurting small businesses because rent is going up in Queens and we have to pay our workers more,” said owner Minhee Yang. “I think raising the minimum wage hurts the whole society because instead of going to school and getting a professional-level job, anyone will work any job now because the minimum wage went up.”
Yang said she raises employees wages between 50 cents to $1 every three to six months, regardless of the law.
Thomas Grech, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said the increases will have a big impact on the borough's employers, as well as employees.
“Employers are being pushed to pass on price increases to make up for the increase in wages, wages that are being increased without merit,” he said. “We are going to see a big increase in automation wherever it can occur to limit the amount of actual hours people work.
“I predict there will be a decrease in employee numbers,” he added.
Starting next year, the minimum wage will increase to $12 an hour for small businesses. It will rise to $13.50 by 2019 and eventually hit $15 in 2020. Companies with 11 or more employees will pay workers $13 an hour next year and $15 by 2019.
By comparison, New Jersey has a minimum wage of $8.44, Connecticut is at $10.10, and California's minimum wage varies from $10.30 to $14.82 per hour.
Meanwhile, Richard Ki, a manager at Koryodang in Flushing, said his pay increased by $200 per week when the minimum wage went up.
And Myrian Pena, an employee at Washeteria Drop Off Service in Woodside, has also benefited from the wage boost.
“The pay increase has helped me with my expenses,” Pena said. “I’ve been able to help my family more in New York as well as in Columbia. I also buy more monthly Metrocards and food from the supermarket.”