Squeaky Wheel: New York enacts increased minimum wage for fast food workers

New York Governor Mario Cuomo has been successful in enacting a new state-wide minimum wage for fast food workers, moving the proposal through the state Wage Board after a similar proposal was unsuccessful via the state legislature. The raise to $15 per hour will be phased in slowly, finally going into full effect in New York City in 2018 and state-wide in 2021.

The wage increase is expected to effect up to 180,000 workers who work in restaurant chains that have more than 30 locations nationwide.

“This is going to help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, but this is going to do something else,” said a beaming Cuomo at a jubilant rally in New York City celebrating the vote. “Because when New York acts, the rest of the states follow.”

Last month, Los Angeles set its minimum wage to rise from $9 an hour to $15 by 2020, affecting some 600,000 workers.

Seattle and San Francisco also have increased minimum wages in recent years.

A statewide wage increase for fast-food workers as opposed to city-based would be a first, said the National Employment Law Project, a nonprofit advocacy group.

The rise to $15 an hour marks a major step from New York’s current minimum wage of $8.75.

Sixty percent of New York’s fast-food workers rely on some form of public benefit to supplement their earnings, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

The victory marks a major milestone for the Fight For $15 movement, which has been pushing for the $15 minimum wage in a variety of industries via strikes and protests since 2012. Those in the child care, home healthcare, and airport worker industries are likely to feel they have been unfairly left out of Cuomo’s initiative, which could lead to a fracturing of the Fight for $15 movement in New York state.

In a stop in California today, Vice President Joe Biden called for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $12, citing Los Angeles’ example in being among the localities planning to reach a city minimum wage of $15 by 2020.

Opponents of the move cite many reasons that raising the minimum wage for low skilled jobs would be an overall drag on the economy. It is assumed that most restaurant locations will eliminate headcount and hours to keep labor costs manageable. Price increases may have a cumulative effect of harming sales, increasing job losses and increasing the cost of living. Many have cited that fast food jobs were originally the realm of part time high school and college age workers and were never intended to be full time jobs providing for families.

In Seattle, some workers whose take home earnings increased due to the increase in minimum wage have requested less hours so that they can remain on public assistance.

In three short years Fight for $15–at least in LA, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. so far–have proven it indeed was easier to remain in a low skill industry and protest their way to a an unrealistically high wage rather than actually bettering their job skills and entering a higher skill industry worthy of the higher wage.

It will no doubt be noticed by highly skilled workers that are making only a few dollars more per hour that their extra skills now need to be additionally rewarded. As a friend on my Facebook asked today, “Can all the miserable college grads with boring office jobs get together and make our minimum wage $25 an hour?”

[Reuters][Wikipedia][Bloomberg][KIRO TV]


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