State board recommends $15-an-hour minimum for fast-food workers


A state wage board has recommended that the minimum wage for some fast-food workers increase to $15 an hour, eventually.

The board, which was convened by Governor Andrew Cuomo, approved a package of resolutions this afternoon calling for the wage increase. The state labor department commissioner will ultimately decide whether to order a higher minimum wage for the fast food industry.

Under the recommendation, the wage increase would be phased in over several years. In New York City, the wage would increase yearly until it hits $15 in 2018. In the rest of the state, the wage would increase to $9.75 at the end of this year, and then increase by about $1 a year until it maxes out at $15 an hour on July 1, 2021. (The state's minimum wage is $8.75 an hour.)

The board also recommended that the increase apply to fast-food restaurants with over 30 locations across the country. That total would include corporate-owned stores as well as franchises.

Board member Kevin Ryan, founder of online retailer Gilt, said that businesses would face a significant expense increase if the state requires a higher wage. The board recommended phasing the increase in for that reason, he said.

Fast-food workers and their allies across the state and country have pushed for higher wages through the Fight for $15 campaign. They've argued that large fast-food chains are making substantial profits but pay workers so little that full-time employees struggle to support themselves and their families.

"When an industry will not correct itself, the government has to step in," said board member Mike Fishman, secretary-treasurer of Service Employees International Union.