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N.Y. to move on $15 QSR wage this week

New York state’s fast-food wage board on Wednesday is expected to recommend raising the fast-food minimum wage to $15 an hour, and the state’s labor commissioner is expected to approve that recommendation, according to a person familiar with the board’s plans.

The move is fairly unusual: While other cities have raised the minimum wage to $15, it is uncommon for a state to do so for only one industry.

“We’re all scared, I have to admit,” said franchise owner David Sutz, 58, who began working in fast food in 1977, as a manager trainee, and now co-owns four Burger Kings. “We in the New York market are very, very concerned that a lot of us may not survive over the next year.”

New York’s current minimum wage is $8.75, and set to increase to $9 at the end of the year.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called for the board, has railed against fast-food CEOs, who, he said, make millions a year while workers receive public assistance.

“It costs this state $700 million a year to subsidize the profits at McDonald’s and Burger King and that is wrong and that must stop,” Mr. Cuomo said at a rally in May.

McDonald’s didn’t respond to requests for comment. Burger King Corp. said it doesn’t make scheduling, wage or other employment-related decisions for its franchisees and added that all comply with the law.

Franchisees said they would be hit particularly hard. “We’re not corporate, just the local people who are trying to support our families,” said Laura Jankowski, 52, who owns three Tropical Smoothie Cafes, a chain that sells smoothies, sandwiches and wraps. “Fifteen dollars an hour is a very, very scary number.”

An increased wage would likely mean she could have five workers around lunch time instead of six, she said.

Singling out fast-food workers, and ignoring other low-wage workers, like home-health aides, child-care workers and pharmacy aides, is unfair and discriminatory, said Jack Bert, a McDonald’s franchisee.

For others in the restaurant industry, the devil is in the details. Attorney Robert Bookman, counsel to the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said it is unclear at this point exactly how the board will define fast food.

“What we’re hearing are these horrible rumors that [it will apply to] businesses with 10 establishments in as little as two states,” said Mr. Bookman.

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