President and CEO, AG Williams Painting; Pelham
Minimum wage was created to show the bare minimum that the most unskilled worker should be paid. But now, we’re subjecting a huge chunk of our work force to $8 an hour, all because they don’t have a degree. Most of my workers are not college educated—they’re average guys that represent the lower and middle class struggling to make ends meet. It’s because of them that I think minimum wage should be raised. Here at AG Williams Painting, everyone is paid nearly $15 an hour, and that still isn’t enough. We spend 40 percent on wages, which is more than most service businesses. I could still increase wages by 2 to 3 percent before I start to lose profit, because the painting industry has a low margin and is a highly competitive business. And since most businesses aren’t going to willingly pay an extra few dollars per hour, it is up to our government to implement this change.
If we raise the wage at a steady incline, I think our lower-level workers will have a much greater chance of success without harming the rest of us.
Owner, Grand Prix New York Racing/Spins Bowl; Mount Kisco
We live in one of the most expensive counties in the nation where the cost of living is extremely high. It may be possible to live off of $8 an hour in, say, Oxford, Mississippi, but not here in Westchester. Therefore, minimum wage should be a local issue, not a federal one. At Grand Prix New York, our starting positions pay above the minimum wage. I think $10 is an appropriate minimum wage for Westchester County, since this increase would help entry-level workers without having a drastic effect on local business. But there’s definitely a threshold for minimum wage that shouldn’t be passed; it must be raised or lowered with caution. I think we can all learn from Seattle, which recently set their minimum wage at $15 an hour. At a wage that high, I predict a tremendous decline in the number of entry-level positions available, as employers will eliminate any unnecessary positions and technology will replace workers. Restaurants will swap their waitstaff for tablets, grocery stores will rely on self-checkout lines, and ATMs will replace bank tellers. It’s important to remember that once these positions are eliminated, they’re gone for good.