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N.Y. rejects NRA’s attempt to block $15 minimum wage

The National Restaurant Association’s challenge of New York’s plan to set a $15 minimum wage exclusively for hourly employees of quick-service chain restaurants has been rejected by a state appeals panel.

The decision by the State of New York Industrial Board of Appeals affirms a raise in the minimum wage at the end of December to $10.50 an hour in New York City and $9.75 everywhere else in the state. The increases apply only to workers in limited-service restaurants that are part of a chain with at least 30 branches nationwide.

After December 31, wages will rise in stages to hit $15 by December 31, 2018, in New York City and by July 1, 2021, elsewhere in New York.  The hikes will give New York the highest statewide wage in the country.

The plan could still be challenged in court. The NRA said in a posting on its website that it is preparing such a legal action.

A lawsuit challenging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had been expected from the NRA, which hired lawyer and former New York City Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro this summer to contest the hike.

The increase is the result of directives by the state’s executive branch rather than legislation. After the state legislature rejected a proposed increase in the minimum wage for all hourly employees to $11.50 per hour,  Governor Cuomo pulled an end run. Under a quirk in New York law, the governor can direct his labor department to assess the wages of particular industries and recommend an increase. The state’s top labor official can then order that recommendation to be adopted with the force of law.

Cuomo not only pursued that route, but pledged to push for a $15 minimum wage for all restaurant and hourly workers in the state.

The NRA’s petition challenged the process. But the Board of Appeals rejected the argument on all counts.

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