New York Approves $15 Minimum Wage for Fast-Food Workers

On Wednesday, a panel appointed by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recommended that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour for fast-food workers across the state over the next six years.

The raise comes on the heels of rising pressure from activists and labor groups. The Fight for $15 movement argues that taxpayers are subsidizing fast-food chains whose workers routinely rely on government assistance to make up for meager wages. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, sixty percent of New York’s fast food workers rely on public benefits to supplement their wages.

The fast food industry employs 180,000 people in New York State. However, the new wage only impacts employees of chain restaurants with at least 30 locations. The $15 an hour wage represents a 70% increase from the state’s current minimum wage of $8.75 an hour. The federal minimum wage currently sits at $7.25 an hour and hasn’t been raised since 2009.

Irene Tung, a policy researcher for the National Employment Law Project told the New York Times that this would be the first incidence of a state raising the minimum wage for a single industry and that it “will likely put pressure on employers in other industries to raise wages in order to compete for workers.”

The move follows similar raises in San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles where legislation was recently passed to raise local minimum wages to $15 an hour.