N.Y. Business Community Outraged by $15 Minimum Wage for Fast-Food Workers

NY Fast Food Wage

“$15 was a crazy dream. Now it is reality,” Bill Lipton, the director of the New York Working Families Party, tweeted June 22 shortly after the New York’s Fast Food Wage Board recommended increasing the state’s minimum wage for fast-food workers.

Heather Briccetti, the president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State, and Melissa Fleischut, the executive director the New York State Restaurant Association, said Lipton’s dream is close to being their worst nightmare.

The proposal approved by the wage board would boost the minimum wage paid to fast-food workers in New York City, incrementally, to $15 an hour on Dec. 31, 2018. Fast-food employees in the rest of the state of New York would see $15 an hour on their paychecks by July 1, 2021.

The minimum wage in the state of New York is $8.75 and was scheduled to go up to $9 at the end of 2015.

“The recommendation by the Fast Food Wage Board may momentarily appease the advocates, but it is contrary to the need for long-term job growth in New York State and goes against the notion that New York is ‘open for business,’” said Briccetti.

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“Increasing the cost of jobs is counter-productive to actual job creation. This action will lead to increased prices, encourage more automation, and – in the worst case scenario – may force businesses to close,” she added. “What we need is to enact policies that promote real economic growth, especially in the 26 upstate counties that have yet to regain the jobs they lost during the Great Recession.”

Briccetti also argued that if the state legislature had handled this, as it has done nearly two dozen times previously, the legislature could have approved concessions to the fast-food industry that would have cushioned the impact of the wage hike.

The Fast Food Wage Board’s decision would only apply to fast-food restaurant chains with at least 30 outlets. Fast-food service is defined as a restaurant where food and drinks are served at counters, and customers pay before taking the food to a table.

But Briccetti warned in testimony before the Fast Food Wage Board in June she was afraid a decision in favor of a $15 minimum wage “would serve as a template for future wage board action.”

Fleischut said it was unfair that one sector of the restaurant industry should be singled out for the minimum wage increase. Beyond that, she accused the wage board of seeking “to silence the business community and force through an unfair and discriminatory increase on a single sector of one industry.”

“From stacking the board with supporters of an increase to allowing business owners to get booed and heckled at public hearings the governor has rigged the game at every turn. Since the governor used a process that rejects compromise the result is an extremist policy that will force business owners in this low profit margin industry to cut hours, lay off employees and use technology to help offset skyrocketing labor costs.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) celebrated the minimum wage hike shortly after it was announced. He said it was “one of the really great days of my administration” — and, just as Briccetti warned, he said the wage board’s decision should seen as a harbinger of bigger paychecks for everyone earning the minimum wage.

“This is not the ending; it is just the beginning because 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,” said Cuomo.

Cuomo paraphrased President Franklin Roosevelt when he told the crowd a minimum wage “was not meant to allow you to just subsist, but to live a decent life.”