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ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) is voicing concerns over several issues that would affect convenience and fuel retailing in the state.
One key issue is raising the minimum wage. The matter is being debated in state legislatures across the United States and New York is no exception. Gov, Andrew Cuomo is pushing to boost the minimum hourly wage in the Empire State to $15. The wage now stands at $9, which it reached as of Dec. 31.
NYACS contends an increase would backfire in the form of fewer jobs, reduced hours and benefits for remaining workers, higher prices for consumers, and severe financial stress for family-run convenience stores.
"Regrettably, as we enter 2016, the overarching policy debate in New York State centers not on how to create and retain jobs, but whether to make it two-thirds more expensive for private-sector employers to create and retain jobs," NYACS President James Calvin said in written testimony submitted for a state Senate Labor Committee public hearing Jan. 7.
The proposed $6-per-hour hike would equate to a 67-percent jump, according to Calvin.
"Mind you, New York has just completed a three-step, three-year increase in the state minimum wage approved by the governor and the legislature that brought us from $7.25 in 2013 to $9 an hour today," Calvin wrote in his testimony. "The 24-percent pace of this increase was over eight times the national rate of inflation during that period, artificially driving up employer costs for not just wages, but payroll taxes, workers compensation and unemployment insurance. Another jump to $15 would be a torpedo to the side of New York small businesses."
And this is just one fight NYACS is waging. The group is also taking issue with the New York State Association of Fire Equipment Companies' latest campaign, "Safe at the Pump." The campaign is a drive "to educate all New Yorkers about the fact that a little-known state bureaucracy has recommended the elimination of the requirement that all gas stations must have a fire suppression system in place above their gas pumps," according to the fire equipment association.
However, NYACS says that "fact" is actually fiction and calls the "Safe at the Pump" campaign "a foam bath of misinformation."
"That's misleading, and they know it," Calvin said. "The Code Council proposed lifting the mandate only for those gas stations that are newly built or extensively renovated to meet the new standards in the 2015 International Fire Code. The fire suppression requirement would still apply to all remaining stations, including [a] Long Island location they referenced in their press release. So why claim we're all gonna die?"
Calvin said New York c-stores care about the safety of their customers and employees, "but the truth is the greater danger is from malfunctioning fire suppression systems. Reputable retailers in all corners of the state told the state Code Council they can never recall their fire suppression systems activating for the purpose of quelling a gas-pump fire, yet every single year, multiple times, these systems discharge accidentally and without notice."