Cuomo Accused of ‘Stacking’ Panel that Voted for $15 Minimum Wage

Cortney O'Brien
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Posted: Jul 23, 2015 11:15 AM
Cuomo Accused of ‘Stacking’ Panel that Voted for $15 Minimum Wage

On Wednesday, New York became the first state to raise the minimum wage for a single industry. Their target? Fast food. A state wage board voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage from $8.75 to $15 an hour by 2021. Labor unions celebrated and fast food workers hailed the vote as a victory that would allow them to provide for the future.

The wage increase will affect fast food businesses with 30 locations or more and will be implemented in phases, the first coming on Dec. 31, when the per hour rate is raised to $9.75. By July 1, 2021, the fast food salary will be $15 an hour.

More praise for the dramatic salary bump came from Danny Donohue, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, who said the wage increase was a sincere effort by Cuomo to narrow the state’s wage gap:

"I give Governor Andrew Cuomo the benefit of the doubt that this wage board wasn't just an isolated political stunt to score some cheap points.”

Some restaurant groups, however, disagree. The NYS Restaurant Association insisted that the decision was unfair, discriminatory and was guided in by a panel of Cuomo’s own partisan choosing:

"From day one Governor Cuomo's wage board has sought to silence the business community and force through an unfair and discriminatory increase on a single sector of one industry," said Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association. "From stacking the board with supporters of an increase to allowing business owners to get booed and heckled at public hearings the Governor has rigged the game at every turn."

One particular fast food company displeased with the wage increase, is home to those famous golden arches. Here's what Jack Bert, a New York City-based McDonald’s franchise owner and chairman of the Regional Operators Association, had to say about the decision:

"Singling out fast food restaurants while ignoring other industries that hire workers who are paid under $15 is unfair and discriminatory, harms New York workers, and puts some New York businesses – including mine and my fellow New York McDonald's franchisees – at a competitive disadvantage."

Franchisees are already planning to fight the decision with some help from attorney Randy Mastro, who served as deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani. Specifically, Mastro will question the legality of enforcing a wage increase through a wage board and not through state legislation.

New Yorkers already had to fight to save their Big Gulps. Can they do the same for their Big Macs?