Today’s Read: New York Plans $15/Hour Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers

On Wednesday, a panel recommended that New York State raise the minimum wage for employees of fast food restaurants to $15 an hour by 2018 in New York City and by 2021 elsewhere. If accepted by the acting labor commissioner, the decision will impact an estimated 180,000 fast food workers statewide.

The announcement is welcome news for the thousands of New Yorkers who are employed yet still struggle to cover basic necessities – including rent – with their meager paychecks. One of the fundamental causes of homelessness in New York City is a widening gap between low wages and high rents. At the current rates, a mother of two with a minimum wage job would have to work roughly 140 hours per week to afford an apartment at fair market rent.

The tragic result of this disparity is that nearly one-third of homeless families in the city are working but still cannot afford an apartment, and the number of employed shelter residents rose 57 percent between 2010 and 2013.

Earlier this year, the Coalition and other members of the Homes for Every New Yorker partnership recommended a $15 minimum wage as part of a strategy to end homelessness in five years. Although the wage board’s decision applies to only one industry, there is hope that it will have a ripple effect so that someday all hardworking New Yorkers will be paid a fair wage and be able to achieve self-sufficiency.

Patrick McGeehan covered the announcement for The New York Times:

The panel’s recommendations, which are expected to be put into effect by an order of the state’s acting commissioner of labor, represent a major triumph for the advocates who have rallied burger-flippers and fry cooks to demand pay that covers their basic needs. They argued that taxpayers were subsidizing the workforces of some multinational corporations, like McDonald’s, that were not paying enough to keep their workers from relying on food stamps and other welfare benefits.

The $15 wage would represent a raise of more than 70 percent for workers earning the state’s current minimum wage of $8.75 an hour. Advocates for low-wage workers said they believed the mandate would quickly spur raises for employees in other industries across the state, and a jubilant Mr. Cuomo predicted that other states would follow his lead.

The board said the first wage increase should come by Dec. 31, taking the minimum in the city to $10.50 and in the rest of the state to $9.75. The wage in the city would then rise in increments of $1.50 annually for the next three years, until it reaches $15 at the end of 2018. In the rest of the state, the hourly wage would rise each year, reaching $15 on July 1, 2021.

The mandate should apply to all workers in fast-food restaurants that are part of chains with at least 30 outlets, the board said. They defined fast food as food and drinks served at counters where customers pay before eating and can take their food with them if they choose.