Time to Supersize

By: Danielle Apfel

Leading the pack, New York has become the first state to officially raise the statewide minimum wage for the fast-food industry. Yesterday, a panel, set in place by Governor Cuomo, concluded that the minimum wage of fast-food chain employees should in fact be increased to a more realistic salary.

 

Starting this December, fast-food chains with more than 30 locations will have to begin raising their minimum wage in increments. As of now, the NY statewide minimum wage is $8.75 per hour. However, with this new proposal, wages will soon reach $15 per hour, more than a 70 percent raise.

 

The fight to increase the minimum wage has continued for some time now. President Obama made note of the difficulties that so many Americans face when living off the current minimum wage in his last State of the Union Address. He dared those in Congress that deny the importance of this issue to try and live off a minimum wage salary for a year. Yet still, Congress does little to try and rectify the growing division between the upper and lower classes.

 

With the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour, it is not surprising that so many Americans are seeking to increase their wages as the cost of living remains steadily on the rise. Most Americans that live off of a minimum wage salary can currently only hope to make around $15,000 per year, an insubstantial amount considering that rise in taxes, consumer items, and education. However, with New York’s new standards, employees in the fast-food industry will soon be able to make approximately $31,000 per year – a huge gain for the labor sector.

 

Recently, cities on the west coast, such as Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, have begun to increase their minimum wages as well, though their increases are not subject to one industry, but will in fact take a few more years to implement.

 

Because neither Mayor de Blasio nor the NY City Council has the power to set a standard minimum wage citywide, this movement needed a firmer backing. Governor Cuomo has supported this progress as a right step forward, and needs only to officially approve the panel’s recommendation for the state to begin to implement it. As opposed to the new citywide movements on the west coast, this proposal will cover the entirety of New York State. As NYC has a higher cost of living, it is expected that the new wage standards will increase at a faster rate, concluding in 2018 in the city and in 2021 throughout the rest of the state.

 

The fast-food industry employs a great deal of workers throughout New York State. Governor Cuomo expects that these new wages will help about 180,000 employees over the next few years. Though this is just one industry, it is still a huge win for the labor sector. The passage of this proposal will mark a huge step forward for the “99-percenters” (Bill Lipton, state director of the Working Families Party), and hopefully spur the progression of wage increases in other sectors, not only in New York, but throughout the country as well.

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