From the Director April 2016: Living Wages & Sustainable Outcomes

Greetings Groundswell friends, farmers and supporters,

The minimum wage increase signed into law this week by Governor Cuomo is big news for all New York State businesses and employees – including farms. The bill states that there will be an increase in the minimum wage in upstate NY to $12.50 (over five years), ​while in the rest of the State the wage increase will increase to $15/hour (see below for more details). While the bill is a major accomplishment in many ways, of course, as with any bill, there are strong supporters as well as critics.

For example, $12.50 falls short of the current Living Wage in Tompkins County, which is $14.34/hour. While the same high cost of living exists for other upstate counties, the bill is accused of not recognizing the expensive cost of living in NY outside of the New York City region. Others critique the governor’s phase-in plan, saying its unrealistic and that the State should figure out a way to help small business owners pay this wage.

Groundswell seeks to build strong, vibrant communities by promoting sustainable land-based livelihoods. Though it’s not the focus of our efforts, we feel fair wages are a key to these goals; yet, we also know most small-scale sustainable farmers are unable to pay themselves a living wage, let alone their employees.  The issues are complex and financially challenging and we are just beginning to explore them in more depth. Additionally, we are exploring ways Groundswell can support regional farms to prepare for the wage increases through information sharing, workshops, and more.  To begin this effort, we are sharing a brief interview I held with Evangeline Sarat, owner of Sweet Land Farm CSA in Trumansburg. Evangeline began paying her employees a living wage in 2015 and is a Certified Living Wage Employer. Read the interview on the Groundswell blog here.

I look forward to having more conversations with you about living wages and more! Please call or email me anytime.

With thoughts of warmth for your flowering trees and plants,

Elizabeth


 

Minimum Wage—The minimum wage will increase on the following schedule:

Region Final Wage Final Phase-in
New York City $15.00 12/31/18
New York City (<10 employees) $15.00 12/31/19
Westchester & Long Island $15.00 12/31/21
Upstate $12.50 (index to $15) 12/31/20

Upstate Schedule

Minimum Wage Phase-in Date
$9.70 12/31/16
$10.40 12/31/17
$11.10 12/31/18
$11.80 12/31/19
$12.50 12/31/20

 

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