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Cuomo’s wage panel calls for $15 minimum

Workers at fast-food restaurants in New York appear headed for a super-sized pay raise.

A three-member panel formed by Gov. Cuomo in May to examine fast-food industry wages made it clear Monday they will recommend a “substantial increase” for workers but need more time to decide exactly how much.

“Clearly, this board believes that there needs to be a substantial increase in the hourly wages of fast-food workers,” panel member Byron Brown told the crowd.

Brown, the mayor of Buffalo, said the panel could meet again as early as later this week to recommend a new minimum wage for fast-food workers.

Cuomo created the wage board after the Legislature balked at his bid to increase New York’s overall minimum wage — which is already set to increase from $8.75 an hour to $9 on Dec. 31 — to $11.50 in the city and $10.50 elsewhere in the state.

In forming the panel, Cuomo took advantage of a provision of state law that allows the Labor Department to intervene if an industry isn’t providing adequate wages to provide for workers’ lives and health.

About 63,000 people work at more than 7,100 fast-food restaurants in the city, according to Labor Department data. The median fast-food wage is $9.03 an hour.

Panel member Mike Fishman, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, called for the wage to be set at a minimum of $15 an hour — a figure pushed by activists across the nation.

Fishman also suggested the board establish “premium” wages for part-time workers to encourage employers to hire more full-time employees.

“This is a crazy type industry that keeps people in poverty,” Fishman said.

Brown and fellow board member Kevin Ryan stopped short of endorsing Fishman’s proposal but agreed that fast-food workers need a sizable pay increase. They also suggested the board would examine ways to give workers more predictable work schedules.

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