54° Good Morning
54° Good Morning

NY fast-food wage board agrees on need for a pay hike

The state fast-food wage board met in Albany

The state fast-food wage board met in Albany 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 Photo Credit: Newsday / James T. Madore

ALBANY - Members of the state panel examining whether fast-food workers need a raise said Monday they were in agreement on a pay hike, though the size is still being discussed.

The three members of the state fast-food wage board -- representing business, labor and government -- said "there is no question that fast-food workers need a substantial increase" in salary. One member endorsed an hourly wage rate of $15, which many labor advocates have called for.

Employees of Wendy's, Dunkin' Donuts, Subway and other fast-food establishments now earn at least the state minimum wage of $8.75 per hour. More than 24,000 live on Long Island, according to data from the state Department of Labor.

The wage board also said here Monday that it would offer an incentive for employers to give staff more work hours and stable schedules so that, if need be, they could more easily take a second job.

A coalition of six business groups has accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of unfairly targeting the fast-food industry.

More than 90 restaurant owners, including 15 from the Island, said in a letter: "By forcing a wage increase on our businesses, you will put us out of business."

A Cuomo spokesman declined to comment Monday.

The wage board faces a deadline of Saturday to deliver its recommendations to Cuomo's acting labor commissioner, who then has 45 days to decide whether to implement them.

The State Legislature, which would have to approve an across-the-board change in the state minimum wage, has no role in approving the wage board's proposals.

"There seems like a great deal of synergy between the board members," board chairman Byron Brown, mayor of Buffalo, said Monday. "A raise will be recommended by this board."

Two of three board members must agree to each recommendation.

The business representative, Kevin Ryan of the online retailer, said he was moved by testimony of fast-food workers at four public hearings about their economic struggles.

He decried what he called "the triple whammy" of too few work hours, unpredictable work schedules and no health insurance. "It is detrimental to our society," he said.

Ryan also said fast-food restaurants should provide health insurance for employees, though that issue is outside of the wage board's mandate.

The board's labor representative, Michael Fishman of the Service Employees International Union, said the board should recommend a higher pay rate for part-time workers to force employers to make more of them full time. "We need to move to $15 an hour as soon as possible," he said.

Last month, Cuomo directed acting Labor Commissioner Mario J. Musolino to appoint the wage board. All of its members endorsed Cuomo's earlier call for a higher minimum wage. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul has attended rallies held by supporters of a $15-per-hour wage rate before the board's meetings, including Monday's.

Some fast-food workers from Nassau County woke up before dawn to be at the board meeting. They said they were thrilled that a raise of $15 an hour was within sight.

"We cannot support our families," said Alicia Reyes, 45, who said she earns $10 per hour at McDonald's.

"To see that they [wage board members] recognize this makes me happy," she said through a translator. "We are being supported in this fight."

Another McDonald's employee from Long Island, Veronica Ramos, 35, said, "I live in poverty on $9.85 an hour while the corporation is making billions of dollars."


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

More news