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Working Families Party Monitors Minimum Wage Compliance

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The Working Families Party wants to make sure minimum wage earners are being paid $6 an hour.

The state's minimum wage increased to $6 an hour at the first of the year. That meant hundreds of thousands of minimum wage workers were entitled to a pay raise. But the Working Families Party says many employers are not aware of the new rate even though it is a state requirement.

Jim Duncan, the state co-chair of the Working Families party, is also with the Western New York Chapter. The party issued a "Payday Alert" to remind employers of the new higher wage. Duncan says it can be a real problem for workers who are not receiving the new rate.

"We're not saying business owners are shirking their responsibility. Believe it or no, some didn't know there was an increase as of January 1st," Duncan said.

But the Business Council of New York State was in opposition to the hike. The Council says it creates significant increases in payroll, benefit and insurance costs for businesses. The Council also says a "predictable response" to the hike could reduce the number of current and future minimum wage jobs.

But Duncan says the increase offers dignity and self respect to workers, and should in turn create better employees who are more productive. Duncan says he's been watching and listening to see if there has been a negative impact on businesses.

This is the first of three planned raises in the minimum wage -- it will be incremental, rising to $7.15 an hour by 2007.

The Working Families Party says failure to comply with the wage increase is a violation of state law.