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Restaurant group appeals New York fast-food minimum wage hike

The state Fast Food Wage Board, with Byron

The state Fast Food Wage Board, with Byron Brown, center, representing the public, recommended chains hike many employees' pay to $15 an hour. The state labor commissioner issued an order for that in September. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

A group representing fast-food restaurants filed an appeal Friday of the state wage order that raises pay for many employees to $15 per hour by 2021.

The National Restaurant Association, in a 48-page legal brief, said the state Fast-Food Wage Board was illegally constituted in May by the state Department of Labor because there was no representative of the affected eateries.

The association told the Appellate Division court in Albany that the wage board arbitrarily decided that fast-food chains with at least 30 locations across the country were the only ones that should raise workers’ pay. The decision was subsequently endorsed by the wage order, issued in September by the state labor commissioner.

About 24,000 fast-food workers on Long Island will be affected by the $15 wage rate.

The labor department’s actions “are contrary to labor law in New York State . . . [the wage board] broke the law,” said Angelo Amador, the association’s regulatory lawyer.

He accused the labor department of undermining the authority of the State Legislature, where bills to raise the state miniumum wage stalled earlier this year.

Department spokesman Christopher White said Friday the agency stands by the work of the wage board and the wage order “to lift thousands of fast-food workers out of poverty . . . [we] are confident that we will be successful again” against the restaurant group’s appeal effort.

The three-member wage board was appointed at the behest of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Its recommendations were then incorporated into the labor commissioner’s wage order, which was upheld by the state Industrial Board of Appeals on Dec. 9. The association is now appealing to the courts.

Amador advised fast-food restaurants on Friday to comply with the wage order while the appeal is being heard. The order directs chains outside of New York City to begin paying employees an hourly minimum of $9.75 on Dec. 31; those in New York City must pay $10.50.

The state minimum wage is now $8.75 per hour; it will rise to $9 on Dec. 31. Cuomo has promised to press next year for an across-the-board minimum wage of $15 per hour.

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