Governor Cuomo is creating a "Wage Board" to study the fast food industry in New York State and determine how much workers should be paid to earn a living wage. By impaneling the Wage Board, Cuomo can to enact its suggestions without approval from the Albany legislature, as he did earlier this year when the state Department of Labor raised wages for tipped workers to $7.50 an hour.

In an op-ed published in today's New York Times, the governor cited F.D.R.'s creation of a living wage in 1938: "Roosevelt, too, faced powerful opposition to the minimum wage," Cuomo wrote. "But he did not pull his punches as he said: 'No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country." Roosevelt was also governor of New York State before becoming President.

The minimum wage in New York State is now $8.75. Earlier this year, Cuomo tried to use the state budget process to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 in the rest of the state, but was rejected by the legislature. (Mayor de Blasio has called for a minimum wage of $13.13 an hour in New York City.) From Cuomo's op-ed:

While workers in the fast-food industry are struggling, the industry is healthy, having taken in $195 billion in global revenues last year, a sum that is projected to grow to $210 billion by 2018. McDonald’s brought in $4.67 billion last year; Burger King earned $291.1 million. The government is subsidizing these corporations, allowing them to keep their labor costs low and their profit margins high.

Industry leaders have argued that raising wages for fast-food workers would drive up the prices of burgers and fries beyond what many customers, themselves of modest means, can afford. But that hasn’t been the experience in other countries. Australia set the minimum wage for adult fast-food workers at $16 an hour, but a Big Mac there costs only $4.32 on average, compared with $4.79 in the United States, according to The Economist’s Big Mac Index. France, where the minimum wage is over $12, has more than 1,200 McDonald’s.

Fast food workers and other underpaid employees have mounted increasingly larger demonstrations across the country demanding a living wage of $15 an hour, and last month an estimated 15,000 workers marched through Manhattan to protest their meagre wages. Sadly, Alec Baldwin was inconvenienced.

Flavia Cabral, a 53-year-old mother of two from the Bronx who works at McDonald’s and is a leader in the protest movement, says, "No one in New York can survive on $8.75 an hour, so we've been on strike nine times. All we've ever asked for is a fair shot at the middle class and a chance to provide for our families. Today, Governor Cuomo heard us— and soon, I know we're going to get to $15. I am inspired today, because $15 an hour would completely change my family’s life."

Like many fast food workers, Cabral relies on food stamps to feed her family. Advocates for a living wage say McDonald's is essentially outsourcing their labor costs to taxpayers—because of their low pay, many minimum wage workers are forced to rely on various forms of welfare: Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers.

More from Cuomo's op-ed:

Many assume that fast-food workers are mostly teenagers who want to earn extra spending money. On the contrary, 73 percent are women, 70 percent are over the age of 20, and more than two-thirds are raising a child and are the primary wage earners in their family.

Fast-food workers and their families are twice as likely to receive public assistance compared with other working families. Among fast-food workers nationwide, 52 percent — a rate higher than in any other industry — have at least one family member on welfare.

New York State ranks first in public assistance spending per fast-food worker, $6,800 a year. That’s a $700 million annual cost to taxpayers.

In response to Cuomo's announcement, Melissa Fleischut, president and chief executive of the New York State Restaurant Association, told the Times, "Singling out a sector of one industry to have a higher minimum wage than all other occupations is unfair and arbitrary. The minimum wage is rightfully set by the Legislature and should affect all businesses equally."

And Ken Pokalsky, vice president of the Business Council of New York State, said, “Artificially inflated wages will not promote job creation. New York needs to focus on policies that enable us to produce real private sector growth.”

The Wage Board is expected to make its recommendation in about three months.