NY board upholds plans for $15 fast food minimum wage

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A state oversight board on Wednesday upheld the decision by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration to gradually raise the hourly minimum wage for many fast-food workers to $15.

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The New York Industrial Board of Appeals rejected the National Restaurant Association's arguments that that the wage order was unconstitutional, arbitrary, unsupported by the evidence and focused improperly on fast-food chains with more than 30 locations.

The industrial board, whose members are appointed by the governor, said it's authorized only to determine whether the administration's actions were lawful under New York's labour statutes. A wage board heard testimony earlier this year and recommended the wage increases, which were approved by the state labour commissioner in July.

"We find nothing in the statute to prohibit (the labour commissioner) from issuing a minimum wage order that classifies employees based on the number of locations their employers are affiliated with," the industrial board ruled. The commissioner has authority under the law to investigate the adequacy of wages in any occupation, which can be done "for a subset of a segment of an industry" and requires a record establishing "a factual basis for doing so."

The wage board and commissioner concluded current wages were insufficient to meet workers' cost of living. They also concluded that fast-food chains with 30 or more restaurants nationally are "better equipped to absorb a wage increase due to greater operational and financial resources and brand recognition."

The restaurant association said it is "extremely disappointed" with the ruling and will go to court. "We are committed to helping the restaurant community continue to grow and create jobs across the state and plan to take legal action against this arbitrary mandate which is contrary to law," spokeswoman Christin Fernandez said.

New York's minimum wage will rise to $9 an hour on Dec. 31 for most workers under state law.

About 200,000 fast-food chain employees will see their minimums rise then to $10.50 an hour in New York City and $9.75 elsewhere under the commissioner's order.

Their wages will rise after that in three annual increments to $15 by the end of 2018 in New York City and in six increments to $15 by July 1, 2021 across the rest of the state.


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