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Average fast-food worker on Long Island earns $16,000, says report

Shantel Walker, 33, left, a worker at Papa

Shantel Walker, 33, left, a worker at Papa John's Pizza and one of the leaders of the fast food workers movement, speaks during a rally as the state wage board panel held its first meeting, Wednesday, May 20, 2015, in Manhattan. At right is New York Lt. Gov. Kathleen Hochul. Credit: AP / Bebeto Matthews

A typical fast-food worker on Long Island earned, on average, $16,363 last year -- which is higher than most places in New York State but far below the cost of living, according to a report presented Wednesday to a state wage board.

The 12-page report, prepared by the state Labor Department using government data, found there were 24,074 people working both part time and full time at 2,315 fast-food restaurants on the Island in 2014.

Statewide, there were 164,483 people at 15,418 eateries that carry the names of McDonald's, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Papa John's pizza and others.

"Two-thirds of these establishments have fewer than 10 employees," labor department economist James Brown told the wage board, which is examining whether fast-food workers need a raise.

Statewide, they earn, on average, $15,954 per year.

"This is an industry where most of the workers make just above the [state] minimum wage," Brown said, adding the average is $9 per hour.

The state's minimum wage is $8.75 per hour and will increase to $9 on Dec. 31.

Brown also said the amount of money needed to support the basic needs of an adult and child, without any government or charitable assistance, in Suffolk County was $55,881 in 2010. For two adults and two children it was $87,040. Comparable data for Nassau wasn't available.

He told the wage board that more than half of the state's fast-food workers are age 25 or older and almost half have completed some college courses.

Brown's presentation in Manhattan took up about half of the board's 30-minute meeting, its first since being established at the behest of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earlier this month.

The three-member panel announced its public hearing on Long Island, one of four planned across the state, would be on June 15. A time and place have yet to be determined, a labor department spokesman said.

The wage board has 45 days to study and recommend changes in the pay of fast-food workers. The state labor commissioner then could implement them without approval from the State Legislature.

State Restaurant Association chief executive Melissa Fleischut criticized Wednesday's board meeting: "Not only is this whole process a predetermined farce, but it is a rushed farce to circumvent the legislative process and unfairly elevate the cost of doing business for certain employers."

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