Will Westchester Workers Get A Minimum-Wage Increase?

The New York State Fast Food Wage Board’s decision to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021 is preliminary—but is drawing mixed reactions.

On Tuesday, the New York State Fast Food Wage Board voted unanimously to raise the minimum hourly wage for employees of fast food chains to $15. The proposal calls for a phased increase culminating in the $15 minimum wage by July 1, 2021, and refers specifically to fast-food locations that are part of national chains with 30 or more locations across the country. Under current legislation, passed in 2013, New York State’s minimum wage is set to jump to $9 per hour by the end of 2015. If the Wage Board’s decision comes to fruition, it will increase to $9.75 on December 31, 2015, and continue rising incrementally each year. Governor Cuomo is expected to okay the recommendations.

New York State and Westchester leaders reacted swiftly to the news—and not surprisingly, opinions were split: praise from many political voices, and anger among business leaders. Shortly after the proposal was announced, Gov. Andrew Cuomo attended a rally and said, “You cannot live and support a family on $18,000 a year in the state of New York – period. This is just the beginning. We will not stop until we reach true economic justice.” 

State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement, “For too long, over 1.1 million New Yorkers have been unable to adequately provide for themselves and their families because they do not receive fair compensation for their hard work. Today’s recommendations from the Wage Board are a good first step.”

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Business groups, however are singing a different tune, namely that higher wages will force restaurant owners to raise prices, reduce employee hours, and potentially hire fewer workers. In an article on its website, the National Federation of Independent Businesses stated, “The Wage Board’s proposal is yet another example of the anti-business moves that are negatively affecting small businesses across the state. Increased minimum wages would [place] an undue burden on business owners statewide. Though this latest wage increase applies to only the fast-food sector, pressure on small businesses across all sectors to boost wages is likely to grow.”

So what happens next? The Wage Board must submit a final report to Mario J. Musolino, the Acting State Labor Commissioner, followed by a 15-day public comment period; Musolino will then accept, reject, or modify the Wage Board’s recommendations.

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