New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo considered granting farms a special exemption to his $15 minimum wage Tuesday over other industries that rely far less on illegal immigrants for labor.
New York farm workers are primarily comprised of illegal immigrants at an estimated 75 percent. The illegal workers are likely getting paid less than the minimum wage, but Cuomo is considering granting farms a special carve out to his proposal. The agriculture industry nationwide relies heavily on migrant labor, especially from Hispanics.
“I believe we have to make a special modification for the agriculture industry because the rules are different there,” Cuomo told reporters. “The employees work on a different basis. I have spent more time than more [sic] governor in history working on upstate New York’s problems. No one is more careful than I am in building the upstate economy.”
While state farms must abide by a different set of labor rules, it’s not too different from what other industries must follow. The current state minimum wage of $9.00 an hour, for instance, is exactly the same for farms as it is for other industries.
Hispanics don’t just make up a considerable percentage of farm workers in the state, they also helped get Cuomo reelected.
Rep. [crscore]Nydia Velazquez[/crscore] led a rally of Latino lawmakers to encourage state residents during the 2014 election to vote for the Working Families party, reported Capital New York. Cuomo, at the time, was running on Democratic and Working Families party lines and defeated Republican Rob Astorino among Latino voters by a margin of 69 to 27 percent, according to Pew Hispanic Center.
Cuomo has since rewarded the agriculture industry with millions of dollars to help expand employment. He announced a $1.4 million grant Apr. 7 to help Genesee Valley farms grow and a $25 million grant Dec. 15 to help state farms expand. By the end of the year, Cuomo announced the agricultural industry a $1.7 billion increase in cash receipts over five years.
The agricultural industry is not alone when it comes to potential problems from an increased minimum wage. Businesses in many industries may be forced to scale back their workforce or increase prices to overcome the added cost of labor. Low-profit industries like restaurants and retailers are even more at risk because they may have difficultly absorbing the added costs.
Studies have shown both negative and positive effects. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has found both positive and negative results of minimum wage increases, including that any increase in the minimum wage will likely result in at least some job loss. The University of California, Berkeley found in a recent study that having fewer people in poverty outweighs the potential job loss.
Cuomo designed his proposal to phase in over a few years to help mitigate financial stress on businesses. Cuomo has also put forth a number of tax cuts for small businesses. He excluded franchisees from his tax breaks despite the fact they are small businesses that contract with large corporations to use their brand name and sell their products.
Cuomo did not respond to a request for comment by TheDCNF.
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