$15 NY Fast-Food Wage Recommendation Shows Workers Can Be ‘Agents of Historic Change’

A New York State Wage Board today recommended phasing in an increase in the minimum wage paid to workers at fast-food chains to $15 per hour by 2018 in New York City and throughout the rest of the state by 2021.  The state labor commissioner is expected to issue a wage order enacting that plan.  The wage board action marks the first statewide adoption of a $15 minimum wage for workers across an entire industry, and a monumental victory for the Fight for $15 movement which began less than three years ago in New York City.

An estimated 136,000 fast-food workers statewide would receive hourly pay raises under the plan.  The median hourly wage for New York’s fast-food workers was $9.03 in 2014.

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The increases would affect workers in New York at chains with thirty or more locations nationally, including franchised chains like McDonald’s and Burger King, non-franchised chains like Chipotle, and snack and beverage establishments like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.  Sixty-two percent of fast-food restaurant workers in the state are employed at restaurants that are part of franchise networks that will be covered by the new minimum wage.

“The arc of history bent further toward justice today when the New York wage board recommended $15 hourly pay for fast food workers statewide,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “With today’s recommendation and the recent agreement in Massachusetts to pay Medicaid-funded home care workers $15 per hour, the Fight for $15 has jumped to the state level, and we expect the trend to only continue in other cities and states.

“Today’s recommendations reaffirm the simple and powerful truth that by joining together and putting their jobs on the line in the fight for fair wages and the right to form a union, workers in one corner of America can be the agents of historic change that will reverberate across industries and all over the nation.”

Fast-food jobs have been growing rapidly nationally — and even faster in New York.  From 2007 through 2014, fast-food jobs in New York grew 3.9 percent each year, compared to 1.8 percent nationally, and industry profits have been growing even more rapidly.  New York’s biggest fast-food chains have seen a 14.5 percent increase in real profits since 2010, while real wages for their workers have declined 3.6 percent over the same period.

By adopting the wage board’s recommendations, New York will ensure that the workers whose labor produces those profits will earn a greater share of the industry’s growth.


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