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Governor Cuomo Moves to Increase Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers

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After the State Legislature rejected his proposal to raise minimum wage, he's taking action to bypass the need for approval.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has advocated for a higher minimum wage, is taking action to bypass the Legislature in order to increase the minimum wage for New York's fast food workers. In an op-ed for the Times today, he explains that he's charged New York's labor commissioner to assemble a Wage Board, which will determine how much the state should increase the minimum wage. The board has three months to make its recommendations, and those recommendations will go into effect without the need for legislative approval.

In the Times, Cuomo argues:

Nowhere is the income gap more extreme and obnoxious than in the fast-food industry....The average fast-food C.E.O. made $23.8 million in 2013...Meanwhile, entry-level food-service workers in New York State earn, on average, $16,920 per year.

He goes on:

Many assume that fast-food workers are mostly teenagers who want to earn extra spending money. On the contrary, 73 percent are women, 70 percent are over the age of 20, and more than two-thirds are raising a child and are the primary wage earners in their family.

Fast food and other low-wage workers recently gathered in cities around the country, including New York, for the Fight for 15 protests, urging a higher minimum wage. Cuomo leaves out a mention of the protests, but the issue is not a new one for the governor. He had previously tried to raised the general minimum wage in NYC from $8.75 to $11.50, but the legislature rejected the proposal. But by state law, the labor commissioner is allowed to investigate whether a minimum wage in a particular industry is sufficient, and recommend a change that would not need legislative approval. The move puts New York among a growing number of states taking on the problem of fast food wages by increasing minimum wage in some way.

The governor has also been working to raise the wages of tipped restaurant workers. Later this year, the minimum wage for tipped workers in the state will rise from $5 to $7.50.