Patrick Pipino says he worries about the future of his Saratoga Springs Ben & Jerry’s franchise if the state’s minimum wage goes up to $15 per hour.
But he also worries about how young people like those he hires to scoop premium ice cream will get their first jobs if it costs businesses like his more money to hire them.
“It will make it much harder for kids to get first jobs, to learn life skills and get experience,” Pipino said. “There’s a whole underclass of jobs for high school and college kids that’s going to go away.”
Pipino’s concerns echo those of other business owners large and small as Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushes for a broad increase in New York’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, which would be phased in over a number of years.
On Thursday, the Empire Center for Public Policy released a report estimating that a $15 wage minimum would result in at least 200,000 jobs not being created in the future across the state, and perhaps a higher job-loss total.
“Our report shows that a massive increase in the minimum wage would actually hurt the very low-wage, low-skill workers it is supposed to help,” said E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center.
The group’s study estimates there would be at least 11,300 fewer jobs created in the Capital Region, based on a model used by the Congressional Budget Office.
It was the second day in a row that there has been high-profile criticism of the proposal at the state Capitol in Albany.
On Wednesday, a coalition of business groups including the New York Farm Bureau, the state Restaurant Association and Associated General Contractors of New York were in Albany and criticized the proposed increase as “too much, too fast.”
Cuomo has said he would offer tax incentives to businesses to help defray the higher labor costs.
A broad increase would require approval from the state Legislature, which isn’t scheduled to be back in Albany until January.
The proposal has the support of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, and would likely pass that chamber. But the Legislature also includes the state Senate, where the Republican majority could block the wage increase indefinitely.
Separately, the state Labor Department has already agreed to increase the minimum wage paid to fast-food workers to $15 an hour by July 2021 — something the administration believes it could do without legislative approval.
The current state minimum wage is $8.75 per hour, which is scheduled to rise to $9 per hour in January.
Cuomo has argued that a $15 minimum wage for all workers would improve the state’s economy by putting more money in the pockets of low-wage workers, rather than hurting overall job creation. Polls show that a majority of New Yorkers would like to see a higher minimum wage, the governor has noted, and a Cuomo spokesman has noted that the same groups have opposed previous minimum wage increases.
The New York Farm Bureau has said the $15 minimum would hurt the state’s farmers, who already struggle with sometimes-dramatic up-and-down cycles in the price of milk and other commodities they produce.
“We have already seen farmers who can afford it turn to automation to milk cows and harvest crops in order to reduce labor costs,” said Farm Bureau President Dean Norton. “That trend will only be exacerbated by an extreme minimum wage hike, thereby shrinking the agricultural workforce.”
At the Saratoga Ben & Jerry’s shop, Pipino said 95 percent of those he hires are between ages 15 and 22, and for many of them, it’s their first job.
Pipino, who has owned the Ben & Jerry’s franchise for nearly 20 years, said those who own franchises of large chains don’t necessarily make much money. He said his wife, a teacher, makes more money than he does.
Pipino also said he worries about the impact of a hike on young people who have only a high school diploma — a group that already struggles to find jobs, especially if they are poor members of minority groups.
“As much as I’m concerned about going out of business, I’m worried about this creating an underclass in the workforce,” Pipino said.
© 2015 Daily Gazette