ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Starting Thursday, the minimum wage for fast-food workers will increase to $15 per hour throughout New York.
While the fast-food minimum wage is already $15 per hour in New York City, it’s been $14.50 across the rest of the state since the end of December. The gradual increases were set by the Department of Labor under Gov. Andrew Cuomo and began in 2015.
“It’s so important to mark this moment where, yes, some workers are going up to $15, but the majority of workers are actually leaving this industry or have already left because the wages just aren’t enough, particularly for tipped workers who weren’t included in that increase,” said One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman.
While some say unemployment benefits are to blame for a worker shortage in the food service industry, Jayaraman says many aren’t eligible and have gone on to other things. She notes many restaurants aren’t reopening because they can’t find workers. “We really only have two choices: Raise wages or expect half the industry, half the Sunday brunches, half the Friday night dinners, half the great experience that we had prior to the pandemic,” she said.
Meanwhile, Republican Assemblyman Chris Tague said while he doesn’t begrudge anyone from wanting better wages, businesses have had a tough time during the pandemic as well, and that bumping up the fast-food wage in Upstate regions will make it tough for some to stay afloat.
“During this COVID crisis, we had a processing problem throughout the country, and you can see when you go to the grocery stores or go out to a restaurant the price for different types of foods has increased dramatically,” Tague said.
He also noted that some fast-food chains are using apps and technology to replace workers.
The fast-food wage change affects establishments with 30 or more locations, including many that are individually owned franchises.