NYS To Hike Fast Food Minimum Wage

By John Celock

A New York state government board voted Wednesday to hike the minimum wage for fast food workers statewide to $15 an hour by 2021.

The New York State Wage Board, formed earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), unanimously voted to enact the $15 an hour fast food minimum wage through a graduated schedule. The board’s decision, expected since Cuomo formed the panel in May, is the first statewide decision to have a $15 an hour minimum wage in the fast food industry. The $15 an hour minimum wage been sought by progressives and unions in recent years, with several cities and counties adopting the wage rate for all workers.

“Coming to this resolution is about what we heard in those hearings,” board member Mike Fishman, the SEIU secretary-treasurer, said Wednesday about hearing the three-person panel held around the state.

The panel’s decision would phase in the $15 an hour rate for fast food establishments in New York City by the end of 2018. The $15 an hour rate would come into effect for the state’s other 57 counties by July 1, 2021. The panel voted to adopt a schedule to gradually phase in the rate hike over the next seven years.

The rate would only impact fast food establishments with 30 or more establishments statewide.

Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles County have adopted $15 an hour minimum wages for all industries. New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio (D) has asked state lawmakers for the city’s minimum wage to be raised to $15 an hour. New York State does not allow local governments to raise the minimum wage independent of state government.

The board’s recommendations will now to go to acting state Labor Commissioner Mario Musolino for his final decision after a comment period from the public. Musolino can accept, reject or modify the board’s decision.

Kevin Ryan, the business member of the board, said that the decision to separate New York City’s five boroughs from the remainder of the state was based on several reasons. He noted that the state Department of Labor had found that the fast food industry is growing faster in New York City than the rest of the state. He also noted that the department also found that fast food businesses in New York City deal with a higher customer volume due to tourists.

“We really wanted to take into account the careful consideration of industry concern, that’s why we are not recommending $15 immediately,” Ryan said.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (D), the wage board’s chairman, noted that Cuomo had proposed a higher minimum wage in New York City versus the rest of the state when he made a proposal on the subject earlier this year. Cuomo’s proposal did not pass the state Legislature. He noted that the cost of living and cost of doing business is higher in the city versus the remainder of the state.

Brown, who has led New York State’s second largest city since 2006, said the board also heard concerns from the Upstate New York business community about the raise hike outside of New York City.

“There were a number of businesses from Upstate that said they do not have the volume to handle the increases the way the city could,” Brown said.

Rate Hike Schedule

New York City

$10.50 on Dec. 31, 2015
$12 on Dec. 31, 2016
$13.50 on Dec. 31, 2017
$15 on Dec. 31, 2018

New York State (57 Counties outside New York City)

$9.75 on Dec. 31, 2015
$10.75 on Dec. 31, 2016
$11.75 on Dec. 31, 2017
$12.75 on Dec. 31, 2018
$13.75 on Dec. 31, 2019
$14.50 on Dec. 31, 2020
$15 on July 1, 2021