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New York's Wage Boards

Daniel Hinton's picture
Jun 18, 2015

There really is no shortage of reasons for raising the hourly minimum wage in the fast food industry:

  • Three out of four fast food workers in New York earn $9.25 per hour or less. 
  • Contrary to common (mis)conceptions, most fast food workers are well beyond their teenage years, raising children, disproportionately women.
  • Nationally, fast food workers are twice as likely as those in all other industries to depend on public assistance such as Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (i.e. food stamps).

In light of these facts and many other data, New York State Commissioner of Labor Mario J. Musolino has appointed a wage board to "report and recommend adequate minimum wages and regulations for fast food workers." The Wage Board — Byron Brown (mayor of Buffalo, representing the public), Kevin Ryan (chairman of Gilt Groupe, representing business), and Mike Fishman (secretary-treasurer of SEIU, representing labor) — has held public hearings in Buffalo, New York City, and at Nassau Community College yesterday.

1199 SEIU, New York Communities for Change (NYCC), Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC), and others held a rally on NCC's campus prior to the hearing. Dozens of workers, organizers, and their allies chanted and carried signs in support of the famous Fight for $15.

Inside the board's fourth public meeting, which took place for several hours on Thursday afternoon, well over a hundred people testified. Among them were fast food workers, community and union organizers, economists, local politicians, and labor lawyers. The vast majority stood in favor of raising the state's minimum wage to at least $15.

Wage Board hearing held at Nassau Community College on Thursday afternoon.

Michael Reich, a Queens native and UC Berkeley economics professor, claimed such raises would increase employment and purchasing power, especially in low-income neighborhoods, which would offset relatively low costs to consumers and business owners.

A fast food franchisee, who owns four Wendy's restaurants on Long Island, was one of the few who argued against minimum wage increases. Somehow, most of his claims did not match worker and expert testimonies nor state and nation-wide statistics. As for the Wendy's CEO, Emil Brolick, he received over $7 million in total compensation last year.

All testimony can be delivered to the board in person or writing by June 26. Click here for contact info.

The Wage Board will reconvene for the last time in Albany on Monday, June 22. Their final recommendations are expected by the end of July, at which time Gov. Andrew Cuomo will have 45 days to implement them.

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