The Fast Food Wage Board voted Wednesday to gradually increase the minimum wage for fast-food workers in New York. The group, appointed by Acting State Labor Commissioner Mario J. Musolino, voted on three motions, the summary and results of which are below.
1. A motion to raise the wage to $15 for employees of fast food chains. Passed 3-0.
2. A motion to phase-in the increase incrementally to take effect in New York City by Dec. 31, 2018, and by July 1, 2021, for the rest of the state. For New York City, the minimum wage should be increased to $10.50 on Dec. 31, 2015, $12 on Dec. 31, 2016, $13.50 on Dec. 31, 2017, and $15 on Dec. 31, 2018. For the rest of the state, the minimum wage should be increased to $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, and $15 on July 1, 2021. Passed 3-0.
3. A motion that the term "fast food chain" be defined to include fast food establishments that are part of chains that have 30 or more locations nationally. Passed 3-0.
The full text of the motions is available at: www.labor.ny.gov/fastfoodwageboard.
According to statute, the Wage Board must now finalize and submit a report to Musolino. The board is scheduled to meet Monday, July 27, to approve its report. The details of this meeting will be announced soon.
The board's report and recommendations will then be published and followed by a 15-day public comment period. Comments will be accepted online and by mail.
Based on those comments, the commissioner may accept, reject or modify the board's recommendations and file a wage order. The wage order must be filed within 45 days once the report is filed. The order is then subject to an additional regulatory process.
State Sen. Marc Panepinto, D-Buffalo, praised the historic decision. He said the decision to raise the minimum wage to $15 would help lift millions of hard-working men and women out of poverty.
Panepinto is the prime sponsor of legislation (S.5602) to raise the minimum wage to $15 for all workers. Introduced in May, S.5602 overwhelmingly passed the Assembly while members of the Senate did not bring the legislation to the floor for a vote.
Standing on the steps of Buffalo City Hall Wednesday, Panepinto said, "For months, fast-food workers in Buffalo and Western New York have been at the epicenter of a national movement. Today, those hard-working men and women forced to work long hours for little pay in order to make ends meet get the economic justice they deserve. Today, they made history.
"While this marks an important first step, our work does not end here. Raising the minimum wage for all workers in New York state is long overdue. We must empower the hundreds of thousands more minimum-wage earners still left behind and lift them up to a fair and livable wage. As the prime sponsor of legislation to raise the minimum wage for all workers, that dream is finally within reach.
"The time for playing games with the lives of 1.1 million hard-working New Yorkers is over. It is time to end this injustice. Raise the minimum wage for all and let New York state make history once again."
Attorney General Eric. T. Schneiderman said, "New York's current minimum wage is nowhere near high enough for workers to be able to take care of themselves and their families. When I first called for a wage board back in April, I said it would be a critical first step toward raising wages for low-wage workers all across the state. Today's announcement is a long-overdue step forward for thousands of fast food workers in New York, but we cannot stop here. We must keep working for a real, living wage for all New York workers, many of whom work full-time and still live in poverty. That is unconscionable. Today's announcement will build the momentum we need to finally extend a living wage to all hard-working New Yorkers, which is why I will fight anyone who seeks to challenge this in court and do everything in my power as attorney general to protect New York's workers and their families."
Schneiderman laid out the legal case for a wage board in an April 16 op-ed in the New York Daily News. Two weeks later, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he would be establishing a wage board.
Since 2011, Schneiderman's office has successfully secured more than $20 million in restitution for more than 17,000 workers who have been the victims of wage theft, including thousands of fast-food workers, car wash workers, and construction workers.
Not everyone was pleased with the vote.
"Today's recommendation by the Fast Food Wage Board may momentarily appease the advocates, but it is contrary to the need for long-term job growth in New York state and goes against the notion that New York is 'open for business,' " said Heather C. Briccetti, president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State. "Increasing the cost of jobs is counter-productive to actual job creation. This action will lead to increased prices, encourage more automation and - in the worst-case scenario - may force businesses to close. What we need is to enact policies that promote real economic growth, especially in the 26 upstate counties that have yet to regain the jobs they lost during the Great Recession."
State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-C-I-North Tonawanda, said, "The governor's minimum wage hike is blatant government overreach that shows a clear disregard for the private sector and democratic separation of powers. The state is in the midst of a gradual minimum wage increase from $8.75 to $9 an hour, but now unelected officials in Albany are mandating a further phase-in of up to $15 for a specific industry. This will have negative ripple effects across all sectors - from hard-working nonprofit workers, to mom-and-pop shops, to our family farms.
"Anyone with an understanding of the economy realizes that, while the governor's plan is masked as an effort to force large companies to increase their wages, it will actually help major corporations by luring employees from small businesses that operate on the margins. Our focus should be on creating a strong economy that allows transition from low-wage, first-time jobs to solid careers that pay well beyond the minimum wage. It's disappointing to see the governor follow the failed leadership qualities of our president, who bypasses legislative compromise and acts unilaterally to push partisan political issues."