See our Program Bank for resources on the minimum wage.
Since our founding in 2002, Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV) has supported an increase in the minimum wage. The FY 2013-14 budget passed by the state legislature in 2013 included a minimum wage increase that occurred in three phases, eventually raising the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour as of December 31, 2015. This year, Governor Cuomo has proposed gradually raising the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by 2021.
While critics argue that an increase in the minimum wage would reduce employment of low-wage workers, FPI (Fiscal Policy Institute), using Bureau of Labor statistics, shows the opposite. From the end of the first half of 2004, before New York State increased the minimum wage, to the end of the first half of 2005, after the increase, employment grew 1.8% in the retail trade and 2.7% in food service. In addition, some recent studies indicate that minimum wage increases have no impact on the number of jobs held or hours worked.
Reform Jewish Values and Policy
The Reform Jewish Movement has long been a voice for social and economic justice. As early as 1965, the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) passed a resolution, “The Eradication and Amelioration of Poverty,” which urged the federal government to adopt measures “which would assure every man willing and able to work at a wage which makes possible a decent standard of living.” Our tradition demands that we “speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy (Proverbs 31:9).” As Jews, we have an obligation not only to feed the hungry but also to help those in need become self-sufficient (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah).
The Torah also emphasizes the importance of a worker’s wages (Deuteronomy 24:14-15 and commands in Leviticus, “You shall not defraud your neighbor, nor rob him; the wages of he who is hired shall not remain with you all night until the morning (Leviticus19:13).” In 1999 both the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Union of Reform Judaism passed resolutions supporting living wage campaigns, including supporting living wage ordinances and bills to bring wages to at least the poverty line, and encouraging rabbis and members of their congregations to be involved in living wage campaigns.
The last minimum wage increase was 10 cents in July 2009, bringing New York’s minimum wage up to the federal $7.25 per hour. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver proposed increasing the NYS minimum wage to $8.50 per hour on January 1, 2013 and to annually adjust the minimum for changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) beginning January 2014. An increase in the state minimum wage to $8.50 an hour would put the wages of a full-time minimum wage worker at 95% of the 3-person federal poverty line.
The FY 13-14 budget enacted a long-awaited increase in the state minimum wage. Over the next three years, the minimum wage in New York will increase from its current $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour. At the federal level, New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are co-sponsors of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012, legislation introduced by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, which seeks to raise the federal minimum wage, and thereby the threshold that states are required to meet, from $7.25 to $9.80 an hour by 2014.