Officials in New York City are expected to approve a $15 “fast food” minimum wage this week. The approval would affect the living wages for more than 200,000 fast food workers in the state.
Labor activists and employees at McDonald’s, Burger King, and other fast food chains, teamed up in early 2015 to stage nationwide protests and strikes to draw attention to their desire for a higher working wage.
The current minimum wage in New York is $8.75 and will rise to $9 by the end of the year.
The board is expected to recommend the $15 minimum wage floor, which must then be approved by the state’s labor commissioner. The body’s recommendation does not require legislative approval, thanks to a move by Governor Andrew Cuomo. “For all intents and purposes, what they recommend is what the law will be,” said a spokesperson for Fight For $15, a union-backed low-wage worker movement instrumental in organizing protests, walkouts and lobbying activity over the last few years.
The $15 per hour minimum wage law has been fought against by the New York State Restaurant Association. CEO Melissa Fleischut told the Syracuse Post-Standard that the group “continues to oppose a minimum wage increase that specifically targets a single industry.”
Gap Inc., Ikea, and Walmart recently offered voluntarily pay raises to $10, $10.76 and $9 per hour, respectively. A raise that targets a single industry could force those retailers to once again cut into profits with another raise.
Officials at Fight For $15 hope the fast food workers wage increase will spillover into other industries. “Retailers will be forced to compete” the agency says.
Indeed an increased wage in the fast food industry could cause a spillover of top talent at retailers. Target, Macy’s, and other retailers could soon find they are losing their best workers to McDonald’s and Burger King, a scenario that seemed unlikely before the fast food wage increase was proposed.