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N.Y. wage board recommends $15 fast-food wage

New York state’s fast-food wage board Wednesday recommended raising the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 an hour, a stance the state’s labor commissioner, Mario Musolino, is expected to approve.

The board recommended that the state’s minimum hourly wage, which currently stands at $8.75 and is set to increase to $9 at year’s end, be raised in stages for fast-food chains with more than 30 locations. The hike would be implemented in New York City by 2018 and the remainder of the state by 2021.

Other industries would not be subject to the increases. It is also unclear what the state would regard as a fast-food restaurant.

“This reflects that businesses need to digest this increase, which is going to be very substantial, over the next several years and be able to plan for it and digest that in an orderly manner,” wage-board member Kevin Ryan said at Wednesday’s meeting.

While a number of cities have recently raised the minimum wage in response to campaigns such as “Fight for $15,” this move by the state to increase wages for just one industry is seen as somewhat unorthodox.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called for the board, has publicly spoken against the fast-food industry, arguing that the state “subsidizes” chains like Burger King and McDonald’s to the tune of $700 million a year.

“What we believe in New York is that there should be opportunity for all and fundamental fairness for all,” Cuomo said to supporters after the wage board’s announcement Wednesday, adding that “there is no doubt (the state) is headed in the right direction.”

Though fast-food workers say the increase will bring them closer to a so-called “living wage,” chain restaurant operators are concerned about how increased labor costs will cut into their profits and constrain their operations.

“We continue to say that we think it’s unfair that they singled out a single segment of our industry,” Melissa Fleischut, executive director of the New York State Restaurant Association, told The New York Times.

And while Gov. Cuomo has avered that the wage hike’s target is large, national corporations making “extraordinary profits,” industry representatives have expressed concern about the disproportionate impact an industry-specific increase will have on small business owners.

“New York State can raise its minimum wage if it wants to, but it should not pick off one industry at a time,” International Franchise Association CEO Steve Caldeira said in a news release, noting that “small business restaurant franchisees face the same challenges as all other small businesses.”
 

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