STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- George Zaloom, owner of Zalooms Auto Repair in Westerleigh, says his technicians are some of the highest paid in the industry.
But he also hires apprentices, who start at minimum wage rates.
With the increase in minimum wage that goes into affect on Saturday, Zaloom says he'll have to limit hiring and/or raise prices.
"Since most minimum wage jobs are entry level, I feel the increase will cause many problems across the board since those making even $20 per hour will request a raise. In the end it will affect jobs and prices," he said.
Zaloom is one of many Staten Island business owners who fear the historic increase in the minimum wage championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- which will ultimately reach $15 an hour for all workers across New York -- may hurt his bottom line.
MINIMUM WAGE HIKE STIPULATIONS
Minimum wage is currently $9 an hour across New York state.
On Saturday, Dec. 31, workers in New York City employed by large businesses (those with at least 11 employees), will receive an $11 per hour minimum wage. The wage will jump by another $2 each year after, reaching $15 on Dec. 31, 2018.
For workers in New York City employed by small businesses (those with 10 employees or fewer), the minimum wage rises to $10.50 on Saturday. It will increase by another $1.50 each year after, reaching $15 on Dec. 31, 2019.
"By moving to a $15 statewide minimum wage and enacting the strongest paid family leave policy in the nation, New York is showing the way forward on economic justice," said Cuomo.
"These policies will not only lift up the current generation of low-wage workers and their families, but ensure fairness for future generations and enable them to climb the ladder of opportunity," he added.
TRICKLE UP EFFECT
Barry Crupi, owner of Barry's Auto Body in Eltingville, which employees 20 people, said that while all his employees make more than minimum wage, he fears a "trickle up effect."
"There will most certainly be a trickle up effect at some point. For example, if someone working the counter at McDonald's is making $11 per hour and one of my employees is making $15 per hour, there is now only a $4-an-hour difference between an unskilled worker and a skilled worker," he said.
"So when that unskilled worker graduates to a skilled position, she/he will be seeking much more than $15 per hour, which means hourly rates for labor will be forced to rise across the board. That can have an unanticipated negative effect on consumers as businesses raise their prices to cover the increased wage costs," Crupi added.
He noted he's "in favor of a fair wage paid for a fair day's work, which is why my employees make greater than minimum wage."
But he said he believes those wages "should be set by the market, not by arbitrary laws."
PRICE HIKE PASSED ONTO THE CONSUMER
Many business owners say the prices businesses pay for the minimum wage hike will eventually be passed onto the consumer.
"I believe this mandatory minimum wage will do more harm than good because the increased cost of doing business will ultimately be passed onto the consumer. (This) means that the cost for service will go up in line with the wage increase causing that minimum wage earner to have to pay more for his/her purchases, which leaves them in the same condition they were before of not being able to afford the goods and service," said Crupi.
FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY TO SEE GREATEST IMPACT?
Michael Behar, president of the Staten Island Downtown Alliance, which represents approximately 652 businesses along the Bay Street corridor with an estimated 5,260 employees earning an average of $37,481 per year, said the minimum wage hike will have its greatest affect on business owners in the food and beverage industry.
"This will also put them (food and beverage business owners) in a quandary over what to pay managers who typically make between $15 and $18 dollars per hour," he said.
"If they have to raise their salaries as well, the costs must be passed on to consumers. Unfortunately, if the area in which the restaurant is located can't support the increased prices, we could see those businesses failing and leaving everyone out of work," said Behar.
However, this means a 22 percent rise in gross income for hundreds of thousands of workers, including tens of thousands of healthcare workers.
"I feel at ease. We've been struggling for a long time. This raise will make things better. After paying bills, I might buy some clothes. The fight for $15 was worth it because it made home care workers visible," said Anna Couch, a home care worker on Staten Island.