Minimum Wage Proposal Faces Controversy

Photo courtesy of StLuciaNewsOnline.

A proposal of establishing a $15-an-hour minimum wage for county employees spearheaded by Ulster County Legislature Chairman John Parete was met with concern by several other legislatures.

“Quite honestly, when I read that our county executive had gone to Albany and advocated for the living wage before the wage board, I thought that this could be an opportunity to find out where people in Ulster County are,” Parete said.

This proposal was brought to the Ulster County Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee. It was, however, rejected with four votes in support and two in opposition. Five positive votes are necessary for a proposal to go through the committee into effect.

The apprehensions of those in opposition circulate around the fear that this raised pay could create issues with negotiated union contracts. According to an article in The Daily Freeman, businessmen including Legislator Richard Gerentine, chairman of the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee, said that he does not agree with anyone dictating what minimum wage should be. However, Parete has disclosed that he has no intentions of imposing a minimum wage on local businesses, he only aims to raise the pay of the Ulster County Government employees themselves.

“I don’t find that a problem,” Parete said concerns over negotiated union contracts]. “Number 1, because if the state passes the law it becomes law, which would be automatically reflected in the contract. I think that’s a bogus argument, we’re doing budgets right now in the county. It is not a problem if it turned out that we had to renegotiate the contract with the Civil Service Employee Association (CSEA) or the unions.”

This pay raise would only affect six to 10 people, according to Parete. If this were to go through the Ways and Means Committee, for the second time, Parete said that there will be no increase for the taxpayers of Ulster County to compensate for the raised wage.

Parete also said that raising wages for workers of Ulster County is as far as he wishes to go with the matter. The New York minimum wage, according to Parete, is a matter for the state senators and governors. Parete said that in regards to New York minimum wage, if Ulster County does agree to an increase for a living wage, then the likelihood of any other region in New York, or New York as a whole going through with this is not high.

“I am doing this for Ulster county,” Parete said. “I have to take care of myself and our workers. My interest lies with the workers of Ulster County. As far as the New York level goes, thats up to the state senators and Governors.”