Fast-Food Workers Cheer As $15 Minimum Wage Advances In New York State | KUOW News and Information

Fast-Food Workers Cheer As $15 Minimum Wage Advances In New York State

Jul 23, 2015
Originally published on July 23, 2015 11:40 am

There aren't a lot of obscure government board meetings that warrant a watch party, let alone one with a marching band.

But that's how fast-food restaurant workers and their supporters celebrated Wednesday on a blocked-off street in Manhattan, as they watched a state panel recommend a $6.25 increase in their hourly wage, to $15.

"It's a victory! We have been fighting, and today we have made history," said Alvin Major, a 49-year-old cook at a KFC restaurant in Brooklyn. He said a $15 minimum wage would mean that he could stop relying on food stamps to feed his family of six.

"This will help me to take care of my kids, send them to the right school and put food on the table," he said.

The bump to $15 an hour in New York, which would affect workers at chains with 30 or more stores nationally, would match recent increases in San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles. It would take effect over the next three years for New York City, and over the next six years for the entire state, if the state's labor commissioner approves the proposal.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appointed the wage board that recommended the wage hike, called its proposal an important first step.

"We will not stop until we reach true economic justice and we raise the minimum wage for every worker in every job in this state," he said.

The fast-food industry is one of New York's biggest employers of low-wage workers.

Randy Mastro, an attorney for fast-food franchise holders, says his clients are being unfairly targeted.

"There are many other similarly situated restaurants, diners, food counters not included in this proposal," he said.

It also could affect business growth, hiring and competition in the state, says Carolyn Richmond, who represents restaurant owners in the New York City Hospitality Alliance.

She says the proposed wage hike would mean that some of her clients won't be able to hire more workers, and that smaller fast-food chains that want to expand might think twice before opening in New York.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

New York State may be the next to raise its minimum wage to $15.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The state would follow some Western cities - San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles.

INSKEEP: Now a New York wage board has recommended more pay for workers in the fast-food industry. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang has more.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Even in New York City, most public meetings don't have a marching band for an opening act. The musicians played at an outdoor watch party for a state wage board meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We will be making resolutions that provide for $15 an hour statewide.

(APPLAUSE)

WANG: Fast-food restaurant workers and their supporters celebrated on a blocked-off street in downtown Manhattan as they watched a panel take them one step closer to a minimum wage hike from $8.75 to $15 per hour.

ALVIN MAJOR: It's a victory. We have been fighting, and today, we have made history.

WANG: Forty-nine-year-old Alvin Major works as a cook at a KFC in Brooklyn, N.Y. If New York's labor commissioner approves the proposal, Major will start making $15 an hour in three years. And he says he'll be able to stop relying on food stamps to feed his family of six.

MAJOR: This would help me to take care of my kids, send them to the right school, and put food on the table.

WANG: The raise would go into effect gradually over the next few years for workers at chains with 30 or more stores nationally. Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed the board that recommended the wage hike. He called their proposal an important first step.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ANDREW CUOMO: We will not stop until we reach true economic justice and we raise the minimum wage for every worker in every job in this state.

WANG: The fast-food industry is one of New York's biggest employers of low-wage workers. Randy Mastro, an attorney for fast-food franchise holders, says his clients are being unfairly targeted.

RANDY MASTRO: There are many other similarly situated restaurants, diners, food counters, not included in this proposal.

CAROLYN RICHMOND: Singling out fast-food employers and saying that they must pay $15 an hour really doesn't leave a lot of room for competition.

WANG: Attorney Carolyn Richmond represents restaurant owners in the New York City Hospitality Alliance. She says the proposed wage hike would mean some of her clients won't be able to hire more workers. And smaller fast-food chains that want to expand might think twice before opening in the state. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.