New York State's 180,000 fast food workers are one step closer to being paid $15 a hour.
The Fast Food Wage Board recommended raising the minimum wage during a Wednesday afternoon hearing. If approved by the labor commissioner, the minimum wage would rise to $10.50 on Dec. 31, 2015; to $12 on Dec. 31, 2016; to $13.50 on Dec. 31, 2017 and to $15 on Dec. 31, 2018 for New York City.
Wages for state fast food workers would rise to $15 in staggered increases by 2021. The pay raises apply to fast food restaurants and franchises with more than 30 national locations.
The signs were the same at a rally to watch the wage board hearing in lower Manhattan, more than two years after the Fight for 15 started. As Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who chaired the wage board, started the hearing, the crowd quieted down, eventually erupting in cheers as the three members moved unanimously to approve the pay increase.
“We did it!” Jorel Ware, 31, yelled into the crowd after the decision. Ware, who works at a McDonald's in Manhattan, has said he makes a little over $200 a week.
“Their dream came through,” said Kimberly Saget, a campaign organizer with Long Island Jobs for Justice. “I wish Long Island was on the same level, but 2021 is a good step.”
"You cannot support a family on $18,000, period," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said after the decision.
The move was applauded by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and New York Attorney General Eric Scheneiderman, who attended the rally, and other elected officials and labor leaders.
"This was a thoughtful approach in ensuring that implementing the full $15 was staggered over a period of years," Lt. Gov Kathy Hochul told Metro after the decision. "There is time to prepare for this ... time to budget."
“From day one Governor Cuomo’s wage board has sought to silence the business community and force through an unfair and discriminatory increase on a single sector of one industry,” said Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association in a statement. The Save New York Restaurant Coalition called the wage board a “sham”
New York would be the first state with a $15 minimum wage if the increases are in place by 2025.
After the senate blocked Cuomo’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 in the rest of the state, the governor asked Acting State Labor Commissioner Mario J. Musolino to assemble a wage board in May. Since then, there have been multiple public hearings across the state for fast food workers, advocates of a $15 minimum wage and opponents to testify.
The recommendation does not require legislative approval.