NY Board Upholds $15 Minimum Wage for Fast-Food Workers

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Appeals board upholds minimum wage hike to $15 for fast food workers.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Three advocacy groups are calling for a $15 statewide minimum wage that would apply to New York’s nonprofits as well as additional funding in government contracts to cover it.ALBANY — A state board rejected a challenge to New York’s minimum-wage boost for fast-food workers, setting the stage for restaurant owners to take their battle to court. The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Human Services Council say they’re leading a campaign to make $15 the minimum for all low-wage workers.

In a decision issued Wednesday, the Industrial Board of Appeals unanimously ruled against the National Restaurant Association, a major national trade group that had appealed the state’s plan to gradually increase the minimum pay rate for fast-food employees to $15 an hour by July 2021. The groups say roughly 2,500 nonprofits in New York rely on state contracts to provide essential services to people, and additional contract funding would be needed to prevent an unfunded mandate that would cut services.

On Dec. 2, Common Council voted unanimously to support a resolution asking for a countywide living wage for all employees, based on the local wage calculation released biannually by Alternatives Federal Credit Union. The appeals board — which is appointed by the governor — rejected every argument advanced by the trade group, including its contention that the makeup of the state’s three-member Fast Food Wage Board flouted state law. “We do not find that the appointment of the 2015 fast food wage board was improperly constituted or otherwise contrary to law,” the four-member appeals board wrote in its decision. Neither of the two resolutions have any legislative power: the county is showing its support for the state to pass a higher minimum wage, and the city is asking the county to do the same thing.

In 2013, Democrats were debating whether the minimum should be $9 or $10.10 an hour — and even that was seen as significant in a country that hasn’t raised its minimum wage from $7.25 in six years. The county would have to ask the New York State Legislature for a “home rule request.” The most routine variety of these requests, according to county attorney Jonathan Wood, is that to set the county sales tax.

According to Jordan Lesser, legal counsel for Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton’s (D-Ithaca) office, the home rule request is no different than any other bill in that it needs introduction in both chambers of the legislature by a representative. Ryan was chosen as the employers’ representative on the board, despite his lack of restaurant experience. “While we may agree with the petitioner that Mr. The seeds were first sown by the Great Recession, when millions lost their jobs and many ended up in work paying closer to the minimum wage. “We had a lot of folks having to take jobs that were much lower paying than any they had previously had, a lot of jobs in retail and the service sector, because those were the first ones to come back coming out of the recession,” said David Cooper, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. Alternatives’ living wage calculation is tied to a number of cost-of-living categories, and stands now at $14.34 per hour, if health care is not included; with health care, the current living wage is $13.77.

Workers who used to be middle class wound up in these low paying jobs and “recognized that pay in these jobs was just unlivablely low.” Low pay was also put on the agenda when protestors crowded into Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan toward the end of 2011 and launched the Occupy Wall Street movement. Pete Meyers, the Workers’ Center director, says that the focus right now is “building the groundswell” before bringing the proposal before the county legislature. One of the loudest rallying cries was around skyrocketing income inequality, and they got everyone talking about it. “The fact that paychecks haven’t been growing despite productivity growing over the last 40 years [is] one of the primary drivers in the growth of inequality,” Cooper noted. In August the Town of Ithaca passed a resolution similar to that of the city. “We’re not going to pull the trigger until we know it’s going to pass,” Meyers said. “Our intention is to go to other towns to get their support. But it takes lot of trust on our behalf to hope the governor can do that.” Like Cuomo’s proposal, Meyers says that any new living wage requirement for Tompkins County employers would be phased in gradually.

It was a pleasant surprise to Meyers, he said, that when Mayor Svante Myrick presented the idea to the county Democratic Party meeting in September, party membership was nearly all in favor of a four-year phase-in. “I’ve left primarily in search of gainful employment,” Foreman said. “Thankfully I don’t have family depending on me. There’s just not enough work with fair enough pay, and living expenses are off the charts.” Now she’s doing “okay,” Myers said, but in her work with the Friendship Donations Network she said that anyone visiting a food pantry in the area would be “surprised to discover how many people are food insecure. It doesn’t take much to push you into that area.” Tom Sieling of the Midstate Central Labor Council said in his visits to trailer parks in outlying areas of Tompkins County he’s seen that need there is dire. “If it was much worse they’d be freezing in a ditch,” Sieling said. “There are pretty rough situations all over. But I think even if Donald Trump had to go door to door in those parts he would say these people need to get paid better.” Meyers said he does think the proposal has “good support in rural areas.” He hopes organizing efforts in lower-income neighborhoods like mobile home parks will empower some people “who don’t otherwise feel like they have access to the political process.” The business viewpoint was represented at city hall by Hank Newman and Susan Bechley of Trumansburg.

Newman said he was certain his company, which employs six people on average, would go under because of increased payroll costs, and a large chain like Arctic Glacier would take his business. “There’s a ripple effect to establishing a living wage of $15 an hour,” Bechley said. “For every hundred dollars in wages, Ithaca Ice needs to pay another $12 in worker’s comp.” Jennifer Tavares of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce had 110 member-businesses respond to a survey on the issue last week. Home health and childcare positions do seem to be “problem areas,” since they’re traditionally paid less than $10 per hour, and other firms “rely on government funding which is inadequate.” “We’re sympathetic, of course, to the businesses,” Meyers said. “But as a reason to not do this is unacceptable to me. Keith Ellison (MN), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced a bill to increase it to that level in July. The momentum is likely to continue on a local, rather than national, scale. “Because of the way the political playing field is laid out, the number of places where you can move things is really constrained,” Sonn said. “Congress is gridlocked, there aren’t that many blue states.” A case study in the power of this movement, however, may have recently appeared in a red state in the south.

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