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NYS fast-food board affirms plan for $15 minimum wage

The state fast-food wage board on June 29,

The state fast-food wage board on June 29, 2015. Members are, from left, Pico Ben-Amotz, state Labor Department staffer; Michael Fishman, of the Service Employees International Union; board chairman Byron Brown, mayor of Buffalo; Kevin Ryan, founder of online retailer,, and Labor Department staffer James Rogers Credit: Newsday / James T. Madore

The state fast-food board Monday quickly approved its report recommending that employees of chain restaurants receive a minimum of $15 per hour by 2021.

In a meeting that lasted 21/2 minutes, the three board members unanimously ratified their report without public discussion.

Once the report, estimated to be about 40 pages, is signed by all the board members, it will be made public and a 15- day period for written responses will start.

That period coincides with the 45 days that the state's acting labor commissioner has to approve, reject or amend the wage board's recommendation.

The board last week proposed that workers at McDonald's, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts and other chain restaurants with 30 or more locations across the country be paid at least $15 per hour by 2018 in New York City and by 2021 in the rest of the state. The raise will be in steps starting on Dec. 31.

Fast-food employees now earn at least the state minimum wage of $8.75 an hour.

Board chairman Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo, said Monday that he and other board members were still making changes to the report Sunday night. "This is the final step in the wage board process," he said.

The board was appointed in May by the labor commissioner. He acted after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo could not persuade the Republican majority in the State Senate to support another across-the-board increase in the state minimum wage while the current rise is still being implemented. The final step to $9 per hour comes at year's end.

Business representative Kevin Ryan of the online retailer said the wage board tried to weigh the competing interests of business owners and workers.

"We tried to strike a balance between the two," he said in an interview. He said consumers' needs were also factored into the recommendation.

"The minimum wage has not kept up with inflation over the last 30 years," Ryan said. "I think this just resets it to a place that's more consistent with" the current cost of living.

Heather C. Briccetti, the business representative on an earlier state wage board for waiters and other tipped workers, criticized the fast-food board. She also serves as chief executive of the Business Council of New York State.

"Increasing the cost of jobs is counterproductive to actual job creation," said Briccetti, who voted in January against raising minimum pay for tipped workers. "This action will lead to increased prices, encourage more automation, and -- in the worst-case scenario -- may force businesses to close."

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