In late July, the Fast Food Wage Board in New York State recommended that New York City elevate the minimum wage for restaurant workers to $15 per hour by 2018. Fast food operations in New York state will have to follow suit by 2021.
This bold move – celebrated by political figures like New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, and Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton – was approved unanimously by the three member wage board.
The recommendations would have effects on all restaurant chains that have over 30 locations, including fast food joints such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. Currently, New York’s minimum wage is $8.75 an hour. By the end of 2015, that number will bump up (a bit) to $9 an hour.
Franchise owners as well as the New York State Restaurant Association have protested, but both Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor, Bill De Blasio, have strongly advocated this change. Waiving away fears that the wage hike would drive out food businesses from the city, Cuomo said that “[if] McDonald’s says ‘I’m closing stores and moving out of state,’… fine; then we’ll have more Burger Kings. They’re not going to leave the hamburger market in New York City alone; don’t you worry about that.”
As the New York City employment attorneys here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum have argued for years, restaurant workers in our city often have to work incredibly hard to stretch their earnings just to pay the bills and survive, thanks to New York’s relatively high cost of living.
A recent PEW Research Center analysis estimated that New York City’s prices are “22.3 percent more expensive than the national average.”
Unsurprisingly, labor leaders, such as Mario Cilento, the AFL-CIO President for New York State, are celebrating this $15 minimum wage push as progress. Cilento said “a higher wage benefits us all by providing a kick-start to New York’s economic engine, leading to job creation in both the fast food industry and other sectors as well.”
In our next post, we’ll discuss some of the implications and lessons for the restaurant industry.
If you or someone you love has been mistreated by your employer – denied fair wages or subjected to harassment, discrimination or other wrongdoing – please schedule an intake interview with our experienced New York wage and hour attorneys by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (212) 688-5640.