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Manufacturers express worry about minimum wage hike proposal

March 24, 2016
By Todd J. Tranum - President & CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce & Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southe , Westfield Republican

This past week while thousands of public labor union workers rallied outside on the state capitol steps, inside a different group was advocating to moderate the discussion on the minimum wage in New York State. Manufacturing Lobby Day brought together manufacturers and business representatives from all over the Empire State to meet with elected representatives and discuss a variety of issues including the potential impact of a proposed spike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.

Historically, manufacturing jobs locally generally start workers off with a pay scale above the minimum rate. Despite that reality, the proposed spike would create a detrimental climate for all businesses statewide, including manufacturing plants.

Many of the business owners who spoke during Manufacturing Lobby Day talked about the pressure to increase wages across the board if the minimum wage jumps rapidly to $15 an hour. For skilled, trained, and seasoned employees who now make $18 to $25 an hour, the starting pay scale creates wage compression in the workplace. Each and every manufacturer who spoke indicated that they would love to be able to pay all employees a higher wage, but that economically it was impossible. With global pressures to maintain low prices for their buyers, manufacturers do not generally have the luxury of raising their prices. As a result, they need to rely on additional sales, which in many market areas is incredibly challenging. Many spoke of the need to reduce the size of their workforce if the minimum climbs to $15, or even of moving their business out of state.

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told the group that at this point there are "no deals on anything." He was careful to say that no consensus had been reached on whether to remove the minimum wage discussion from the fast-moving state budget negotiations or not. But he noted, "We will have an on-time budget."

Senator Tom O'Mara of Elmira, a long-time friend of the manufacturing lobby, noted that the best way for manufacturers to make their voices heard on this issue is to put it in writing. He is calling for individual business owners to write letters to the editor, and to write and email Governor Cuomo and their local elected representatives, to tell the story of how a minimum wage spike would impact their business directly. "When it's in black and white and it's coming directly from a business owner, the impact is more profound," O'Mara said.

We strongly encourage all local business owners who are concerned about the proposed minimum wage increase to put it in writing and do it quickly. Write to Governor Cuomo directly and send a letter to the editor at your local paper, outlining the impact of this proposal on your workforce and business. Our position is clear, a sharp increase in the minimum wage will damage the business climate statewide and reduce employment all across New York.

Chamber's state

legislative breakfast planned for April 15

Each year the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce provides opportunities for its members to have a direct conversation with elected officials from each level of government. This year, the State Legislative Breakfast will be held April 15 at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club. Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell will provide their insights about legislation in Albany and be available for questioning from the audience. This event is sponsored by Affinity One Federal Credit Union, Chautauqua Institution, Cummins, Inc., DFT Communications, Jamestown Mattress Company, Nestle Purina PetCare, Serta Mattress Company, State University of New York at Fredonia, and WCA Hospital. The cost to attend is just $18 per person. Advanced registration is requested.

Jamestown Chamber's Salute to the Finest set for April 13

Save the date for the annual Jamestown Community Chamber of Commerce Salute to the Finest awards celebration on Wednesday, April 13. This year's event will be held at Moon Brook Country Club with a social hour beginning at 5pm, followed by dinner and program at 6pm. Invitations will be sent this coming week providing additional details about all of the award winners and watch this column for more information to be announced soon!

Hanover Chamber Member Appreciation Luncheon April 21

The Hanover Community Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Member Appreciation Luncheon on Thursday, April 21 from 11:30am to 1pm at the Colony Seafood and Steakhouse, Main Road, Irving. Kelly Borrello, Hanover Community Chamber President, will give a brief introduction and some opening remarks. The guest speakers will be Sam Hoyt, Western Region President for Empire State Development, and Kevin Sanvidge, CEO, and Kristine Morabito, Business Development Manager, for the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency. The speakers will discuss the Athenex Development and other plans for Northern Chautauqua County in addition to the LECOM Health Challenge on the PGA Tour. We encourage Chamber members to attend. The cost of the lunch is $19 which can be paid at the door or in advance by check. You can make reservations online at or call 366-6200.

Business Over Bagels coming on April 27

More and more employers are learning about potential hires online, but is that a good thing or a bad thing? Have you wondered what your rights are as an employer when it comes to hiring in this era of social media? Explore this topic when the Chamber and Jamestown Community College Continuing Education host the next Business Over Bagels session on Wednesday, April 27 at the JCC North Training Center, Bennett Road, Dunkirk. This informative session on "Human Resource Practices in the Era of Social Media" will be held from 8:30-10am, featuring instructor Lisa Powell Fortna, Certified Human Resource Professional. The cost to attend is just $25 for Chamber members or $30 per person for non-members. To register, call JCC Continuing Ed at (716) 363-6500.



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