On May 7, 2015, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the empanelling of a New York State Wage Board directed to investigate and make recommendations on increasing the minimum wage in the fast food industry. Both Governor Cuomo and Acting New York Commissioner of Labor Mario J. Musolino have stated that the wages of fast food workers are insufficient to provide for the life and health of those workers. In New York, when an appointed wage board finds that the wages of a particular industry or classification are inadequate, the board may suggest changes to the minimum wage law of that industry or classification. Notably, any wage board recommendation does not require legislative approval to be enacted.
The Wage Board’s recommendations on a possible minimum wage increase for fast food workers are expected in July of 2015, after which the Labor Commissioner will have 45 days to issue a governing order. The Wage Board will be composed of at least three members, with equal representation from labor, businesses, and the public. The Wage Board will hold two public hearings—one in Buffalo, and the other in New York City—the dates of which will be announced soon.
While it is unclear whether New York will ultimately adopt an increased hourly wage for fast food workers, Governor Cuomo has previously supported an increase to $10.50 per hour statewide and $11.50 per hour in New York City, and local unions and organizations have supported an increase to $15.00 per hour. In 2013, New York State raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to its current level of $8.75 per hour, which will increase to $9.00 per hour on December 31, 2015. Any minimum wage increase in New York would be a significant development, as the fast food sector employs tens of thousands of workers within the state. New York would also become the first state to specifically increase minimum wages for fast food workers.
P. Kramer Rice is an associate in the New York City office of Ogletree Deakins.