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NYC businesses struggle to survive under $15 minimum wage: 'no choice but to cut people at the bottom'


Small businesses are hit the hardest

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York City businesses have been paying $15 minimum wage less than a year, and many of them are already feeling the negative impacts and having to make difficult cuts, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Businesses in the city with 11 or more workers were forced to pay $15 per hour starting at the beginning of 2019, and predictably, some of them are having to raise prices, cut hours, or even lay off workers.

"They're cutting their staff," said Thomas Green, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, who has witnessed an increase in small businesses closing this year. "They're cutting their hours. They're shutting down. It's not just the rent."

The minimum wage increase is particularly difficult on businesses located in boroughs that have less disposable income, according to Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Sorin, who said that while Manhattan businesses might be able to handle it, places like the Bronx are forced to "keep up or get out."

Even for businesses that aren't forced to shut down over the minimum wage increase, it can stifle growth. Susannah Koteen, who owns a restaurant in Harlem, told WSJ that she had to cancel plans to move her business to a larger location because she can't afford the risk of having to hire more staff in an unpredictable industry.

"You would just have no choice but to cut people at the bottom," Koteen said.

These anecdotes highlight the reality that while most people believe workers deserve higher wages in theory, the reality of a higher minimum wage can be extremely damaging to minimum wage employees who may lose out on job opportunities and small business owners who are already operating with tight margins.

"As a retailer, I was not opposed to the minimum-wage increase because it puts more money or more disposable income into the pockets of people who are my customers," said John Bonizio, who owns four Metro Optics Eyewear locations in the city. "But, what you have to stop doing, is picking the pockets of small businesses."

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