A panel appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recommended a minimum hourly wage increase to $15 for fast food service workers on Wednesday.  The recommendation comes just three months after Governor Cuomo tasked the state’s acting Labor Commissioner to empanel a Wage Board to investigate and make recommendations on increasing the minimum wage in the fast food industry.

The Labor Commissioner now has to adopt the recommended changes, but it is largely expected that he will, even if he first makes minor changes.  The minimum wage hike would be phased in over time, with the first increase to $10.50 for City fast food workers and to $9.75 for State fast food workers coming at the end of the year.  The minimum wage rate for City workers would then rise by $1.50 each year for the next three years until it tops out at $15 in 2018.  For the rest of the State, the wage rate would rise incrementally each year until it tops out at $15 in 2021.

The wage order covers Fast Food Employees working in Fast Food Establishments.  Fast Food Establishments mean any establishment in the state of New York serving food or drink items:

  1. where patrons order or select items and pay before eating and such items may be consumed on the premises, taken out, or delivered to the customer’s location;
  2. which offers limited service;
  3. which is part of a chain; and
  4. which is one of thirty (30) or more establishments nationally, including: (i) an integrated enterprise which owns or operates thirty (30) or more such establishments in the aggregate nationally; or (ii) an establishment operated pursuant to a Franchise where the Franchisor and the Franchisee(s) of such Franchisor owns or operate thirty (30) or more such establishments in the aggregate nationally.

Fast Food Employee covers anyone whose job duties include at least one of the following: customer service, cooking, food or drink preparation, delivery, security, stocking supplies or equipment, cleaning, or routine maintenance.

San Francisco, the City of Los Angeles and Seattle each have raised their minimum wage rates to $15 for all employees.  But New York becomes the first state to do so, even though it is limited to the fast food industry.  Many believe this hike will serve as a precursor to wage hikes in other low wage industries and possibly state-wide.  Similar efforts are being made on the left coast, where on the same day that the New York Wage Board released its recommendations, the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted for a $15 minimum wage.  Moments later, the University of California, which employs nearly 200,000 workers statewide, announced that it will pay its workers at least $15/hr.  We will continue to track these developments.