Sunday, May 5, 2019

Businesses react to minimum wage hike

Dakota Follis-Ziarko, manager of Second Chic

By Brittany Edward and Kaitllyn Mayrose
Buffalo Review West Reporters 
            Employees are elated for the increase of minimum wage going into effect in New York State this year. However, there are employers who have expressed concerns as they determine how to keep their small businesses afloat.
            As of Dec. 31, 2018, minimum wage inNew York State, increased from $10.40 to $11.10 per hour. This is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  On Dec. 31, 2019, minimum wage is set to increase to $11.80 per hour.
            Minimum wage is the lowest wage permitted by law that a worker may be paid. This has been a controversial subject for many years.
            There have been many arguments for the increase, which people say is necessary because it would reduce poverty and help economic growth. The arguments made against the increase have come from the views of minimum wage being only a supplemental wage for families, not a career wage.
            The hospitality industry is the second largest employment industry in the United States. With the minimum wage increasing many small businesses and restaurants have been negatively affected.
            Many small businesses and restaurants on the West Side have been forced to undergo changes due to the increase.
            Guercio & Sons Inc., 250 Grant St., had to change its business hours from 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., and cut a few positions. Vinny Guercio, manager, is against the increase because it is damaging to small businesses.
            “It’s like a disappointment. I can’t keep raising my prices and hope customers come in because we are known for our low prices,” Guercio said.    
            Another business that has been negatively affected by the increase is Nick’s Place, 504 Amherst St. Peter Ananiadis, manager, said the increase has hurt, not only the restaurant, but also its employees.
            Ananiadis says that the problem is not the increase itself, it’s the increase in cost for the rest of the staff.
            “We’re not like a produce place, you can’t just raise prices… When your prices go up, it hurts a lot of restaurants,” Ananiadis said. “This is why people get laid off, or their hours get cut, because the restaurant still needs to take money for themselves.”
            In 2016, legislation was passed that would bring the minimum wage in upstate New York up to $12.50 per hour by Dec. 31, 2020. New York state Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, voted for minimum wage increases multiple times.
            Kennedy said that the increase makes it clear that New York state values all of its workers. He said unemployment in Buffalo, and all of Upstate New York, has continued to drop due to the steady increase in the minimum wage for three years.
            “For years, the minimum wage failed to keep up with inflation, forcing many workers to work 50, 60 or more than 70 hours per week, just to keep the lights on and put food on the table,” Kennedy said.
            Kennedy continues to defend his stance on the increase of minimum wage by mentioning how unemployment continues to drop and Buffalo-Niagara’s economy is doing better than it has in decades.
            “The fact is that hard work deserves a fair pay, and that is what we are ensuring,” Kennedy said.
            Second Chic, 810 Elmwood Ave., is a small consignment store. Unlike Guercio & Sons Inc. and Nick’s Place, Second Chic did not have to adjust business hours and employee schedules due to the minimum wage increase.
            Dakota Follis-Ziarko, manager, said the increase will continue to have an impact on small businesses.
            “Unfortunately, it affects small businesses more than it does affect corporate businesses,” Follis-Ziarko said.

Follis-Ziarko, on minimum wage increase effect on small business:
            Follis-Ziarko defended small businesses and suggests that small businesses  should receive more tax breaks.
            “I feel the balance should be different, because they’re bettering the community and they’re bringing jobs to the community,” Follis-Ziarko said.