Aubrey Akers / Sun Staff Photographer

November 1, 2016

NY State Assembly Speaker, Students Contemplate Implications of Raising Minimum Wage

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The first African American speaker of the New York State Assembly, Carl Heastie, advocated raising New York’s minimum hourly wage from nine dollars to $15 at a lecture hosted by the Cornell Political Union Tuesday.

Heastie explained that the minimum wage was first established as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1939 and said only five states have yet to adopt a state minimum wage.

“Currently, 29 states and D.C. have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour that was last raised in 2009,” he said. “In New York State, $100 has the purchasing power of about $86, among the lowest in the nation.”

While pursuing his master’s degree in finance, Heastie said he studied the cost of starting businesses in New York and realized that raising minimum wage is “actually helpful to the economy of the state.”

“When you put money in low wage workers, that money goes right back into the economy,” he said. “The money these people get will go to support supermarkets and community businesses. It’s about putting money in the pockets of people who will fundamentally put it back into the economy.”

Following Heastie’s presentation, student attendees also debated the issue of outsourcing jobs. William Wen ’20 said the majority of people who would benefit from a raise in minimum wage work in service jobs that cannot be outsourced.

Nate Baker ’17, co-president of Cornell Political Union, decribed how South Dakota voted to decrease minimum wage for workers under the age of 18, which Kevin Cellucci ’17 called “a bit of an immoral way to look at [the issue of minimum wage].”

“In the United States, we pride on being equal towards everybody,” Cellucci said. “And so, you wouldn’t want to pay women or minorities any less. So, why should we pay young people less. If they are qualified, there’s no reason they should be paid less.”

Even though raising minimum wage will not cure the country’s larger plague of inequality, Heastie said it will “definitely spur the economy.”

“The wage disparity and income equality in this country has been the worst it has been in the history of this country,” Cellucci said. “This has to change.”