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NY Board Backs $15 Minimum Wage Hike For Fast-Food Workers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Fast-food workers in New York state may soon be making $15 an hour.

A proposal to set a $15 minimum wage for workers at fast-food restaurants with 30 or more locations was endorsed Wednesday by a state labor board.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose administration has the final say on the idea, has signaled his support.

Gov. Cuomo Speaks On WCBS 880 About Fast Food Minimum Wage Deal, NYC's Deal With Uber And Congestion Pricing

The wage hike would be phased in over three years in New York City and over six elsewhere in the state.

"We are not recommending $15 immediately...we want to just smooth that in and allow everyone to adapt to that," board member Kevin Ryan said. "Businesses need to digest this increase, which is going to be very substantial, over the next several years and be able to plan for it and digest that in an orderly manner. And we think they can and we think ultimately this will be better for the state on every level, we think it will be better for the economy and better for all the people who earn the wages."

"The fast food industry is not going to correct itself," board member Mike Fishman said. "This is what Gov. Cuomo decided to do, that when an industry will not correct itself, government has to step in and think about what's good for the common good."

The state's minimum wage is now $8.75 an hour and is set to automatically increase to $9 an hour at year's end.

NY Board Approves $15 Minimum Wage For Fast Food Workers
Crowds cheer as New York board approves $15 minimum wage for fast food workers. (credit: Al Jones/1010 WINS)

Many fast-food workers say $15-an-hour would allow them to keep up with the state's high cost of living, though restaurant owners say the increase will lead to higher prices and fewer jobs.

Jorel Ware, 34, works at a McDonald's in the Bronx and makes ends meet thanks to support from his mother. A $15 wage, he said, would transform his life and the lives of thousands of New Yorkers.

"I would be able to get my own apartment. Buy my own food. The everyday things that should be automatic,'' he said. "It would help so many people all across the state.''

When Cuomo announced the Wage Board in a New York Times op-ed back in May, he said nowhere is the income gap more extreme and obnoxious than in the fast food industry. He railed against millionaire CEOs, but the International Franchise Association's Matt Haller says that's not who would feel the pain.

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"These are really small business owners who are franchisees that actually own and operate these restaurants," Haller told WCBS 880's Alex Silverman, adding almost a quarter of them claim a $15 minimum wage will make them likely to close. "This is a social experiment being conducted in a really large state."

The governor has said state taxpayers spend $700 million a year on public assistance for fast food workers, Silverman reported.

Haller and other opponents say this is about appeasing the well-organized and aggressive fast food wage movement, Silverman reported.

"Is he really looking to help workers or is he looking to appease the special interests in the unions who have been pushing for this in a very aggressive way?" Haller said.

Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles have approved increases to eventually increase their minimum wages to $15. New York would be the first state to take such a step for a specific industry.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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