Governor Cuomo's Fast Food Wage Board has voted unanimously in favor of raising the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15, in phases: By December 31, 2018 in New York City, and by July 1, 2021 in the rest of New York State.
As per the Board's recommendation, New York is likely to become the first state to mandate a minimum wage for the fast food industry, following on the heels of Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
— Citizen Action NYC (@CANY_NYC) July 22, 2015
In New York City, the Board has recommended increasing the minimum wage slightly every year, starting at the end of 2015: To $10.50 this December 31st; $12.00 by Dec. 31, 2016; $13.50 by Dec. 31, 2017; and $15 by Dec. 31, 2018.
At the state level, the recommendation is more gradual: $9.75 by this Dec. 31st; $10.75 by the end of 2016; $11.75 in 2017; $12.75 in 2018; $13.75 in 2019; $14.50 in 2020; and $15.00 by July 1, 2021.
Speaking at today's meeting, Board member and Gilt founder Kevin Ryan said of the phasing approach, "This reflects that businesses need to digest this increase, and be able to plan for it." Board member and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown added that New York should phase more quickly because, "Things like rent and subway fares impact the higher cost of living in New York City."
The board also stipulated that the wage increase should apply to all employees at fast food chains with at least 30 locations nationally. This includes all cooks, delivery workers, security officers, customer service reps, and those who clean, stock, and maintain fast food restaurants. The Board defines a fast food chain as "any place serving food or drink, where patrons pay before eating, and food can be taken out, delivered, or eaten in."
— Fight For 15 (@fightfor15) July 22, 2015
Today marked the seventh and final meeting of the Fast Food Wage Board. Instated in May, its sole purpose was to study the fast food industry in New York State, and determine what, exactly, constitutes a living wage.
This outcome is not unexpected. At a meeting at the end of June, all three members of the Board (Mike Fishman of the Service Employees International Union is the third) agreed that workers deserved a "substantial increase" over the state's minimum wage of $8.75 per hour.
New York's fast food workers have been organizing around the Fight for $15 for more than two years (with significant help from SEIU, the country's largest service workers union), and Cuomo's decision to form a Wage Board followed on the heels of large-scale protests across the country, including a march through Manhattan on tax day that drew an estimated 15,000 workers.
That day, Jackie Martinick, a prep cook at a New York City Wendy's, participated in a die-in outside of an Upper West Side McDonalds. "I live in a shelter, and...I can't eat three times a day like I'm supposed to," she said. "I can't afford it. My check is gone within seven days, and my pay period is every two weeks. I'm not surviving."
Since the Wage Board first met in May, many critics have questioned Cuomo's decision to instate a board that singles out one group of minimum wage earners—fast food workers—when an estimated 1.5 million city workers don't make a livable wage. De Blasio wrote in his testimonial for the Board's June 15th meeting, "As much as fast food workers deserve a raise—and they do—we’d be remiss to only focus our attention on this one sector of our economy. We all must do more to ensure that every worker gets a living wage."
Here at the NY Wage Board, we just won #FightFor15 in fast food. Now, on to winning $15 for ALL workers!
— UFCW Local 2013 (@UFCW2013) July 22, 2015
Cuomo now has the authority to enact the Board's suggestion without first going through the state legislature—a boon for the governor who failed to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City, and $10.50 in the rest of the state, earlier this year.
A written version of the Board's recommendation will be available on the Department of Labor's website by the end of the day. There will be one more administrative meeting to formally approve the Board's written report. Then comes a 15 day comment period, after which the commissioner of the Department of Labor can accept, reject, or modify the recommendation. He will have 45 days to do so.