New York Raising Minimum Wage to $15 for Fast Food Workers


What began almost three years ago with the labor protest movement in New York City has led to higher wages for workers across the whole country. On Wednesday, the movement came back full circle and now, people in NYC are getting the raise they have been protesting for.

A panel appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that wages for fast food restaurant employees be raised to $15 over the next few years; New York City would have a faster rate of wage increase. This $15 wage would represent a raise of over 70 percent  for workers that currently earn the minimum wage of $8.75 per hour.

Advocates for low-wage workers said they felt that this wage increase would cause raises for employees in other industries in New York as well with Gov. Cuomo adding that other states would also follow. He states "When New York acts, the rest of the states follow. We've always been different, always have been first, always have been the most progressive." This decision was celebrated by hundreds of workers and union leaders waiting outside of the office building in Lower Manhattan.

Bill Lipton, state director of the Working Families Party, stated the decision a victory for the "99-percenters" and that that "There clearly a new standard for the minimum wage, and it's actually a living wage for the first time in many, many decades."

Mayor Bill de Blasio fought for a higher minimum wage in New York City to account for the higher cost of living, but neither he nor the City Council has the power to change wages citywide and when lawmakers in Albany scoffed at the idea of raising the minimum wage, it forces Gov. Cuomo to take a different route. He convened a board to look at wages for the fast food industry and listened to the from dozens of fast-food workers, who the labor commissioner Mario Musolino must act on. The board said the first wage increase should come by December 31, raising the minimum wage in New York City to $10.50 and the rest of the state to $9.75. The wage would then increase $1.50 annually for the next three years reaching $15 at the end of 2018. The rest of the state will reach $15 by July 1, 2021.

Advocates against this decision have not been fond of this at all. Melissa Fleischut, director of the New York State Restaurant Associate argues "We continue to say that we think it's unfair that they singled out a single segment of our industry."The association felt however that the impact would be felt much less by chains that are smaller than McDonald's or Burger King, chains such as Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill.

Other lawmakers and economists predict that the wage increase would ripple out to other industries, such as retail, that also pay low wages. Irene Tung, a policy researcher for the National Employment Law Project, noted "it will likely put pressure on employers in other industries to raise wages in order to compete for workers" and that "it would be very attractive for somebody working at the Gap, making around $9 an hour, to look across the street and see Chipotle paying $2 or $3 or $4 more and decide that they would rather worker at Chipotle." She also noted that this would be the first time in history that a state raised the minimum wage for a specific industry. Already on Wednesday, a couple of retail workers that were at the office where the decision was made, asked what the state would do for them. "We deserve it, too," said Mary Gomes, 51, who works at a Duane Reade drugstore, where she earns $9.20 an hour.

[Via NY Times]

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