SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – A new proposal for another increase in minimum wage in New York could make a big difference to the lives of local Syracuse workers. Employees at Funk ‘N Waffles in downtown Syracuse mostly make the current $14.25 minimum wage along with tips. This could soon change as labor activists are pushing for an increased price floor to be a part of New York’s new state budget. Minimum wage, if approved, could reach $21.25 in New York City and $16.35 in Upstate New York by 2026.
Kai Isachsen, a bartender, barista and cook, and Salim Zanatta, the kitchen manager, both work at Funk ‘N Waffles and make the current minimum wage. Funk ‘N Waffles, a restaurant whose menu is highlighted by chicken and waffles, breakfast sandwiches and coffee, has various employees in different positions that make similar figures. An increase from the current wage floor would be welcomed with open arms by workers at the business.
“It would be nice to have a little more money,” Zanatta said. “A lot of people around here make the normal $14.25.”
The current minimum wage came into effect in 2016-17 that saw New York City’s floor increase to $15. Upstate New York currently sits just below the $15 level. But with rising inflation, products and goods continue to get more expensive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, something that cost around $15 in 2012 is almost $20 today. Inflation rises every year which plays into the proposed minimum wage to increase every year from 2023-2026.
“Everything has definitely gotten more expensive over the past couple of years,” said Isachsen.
The rise of inflation is a major reason those involved want a higher minimum wage. More money in worker’s pockets helps make up for the increasing prices. But as wages look to increase, some are afraid that it could cause businesses to increase their own prices to compensate for having to pay employees more.
“[A new minimum wage] might cause the price of product to be raised to just make up for that,” Isachsen said.
Minimum wage was first enacted in New York in 1960 at $1. It increased two years later and reached $1.15 in 1962. Starting in 2016, minimum wage began fluctuating based on the specific location of the business. It reached over $10 for the first time in 2016 and has steadily increased since. For more information on the history of minimum wage in New York, click here.
The new minimum wage numbers being proposed will be decided on in April when the New York legislature meets to finalize the state’s new budget. Workers across the state and in Syracuse hope that the outcome puts more money in their pockets to help pay the bills and stay afloat.
“I would just sit on [the increase in wages] until I’ve got enough money to pay off my car,” Zanatta said.