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Panel upholds $15 an hour for fast-food workers

The state fast-food wage board on June 29,

The state fast-food wage board on June 29, 2015. Members are, from left, Pico Ben-Amotz, state Labor Department staffer; Michael Fishman, of the Service Employees International Union; board chairman Byron Brown, mayor of Buffalo; Kevin Ryan, founder of online retailer,, and Labor Department staffer James Rogers Photo Credit: Newsday / James T. Madore

A state panel Wednesday upheld an order from the state Labor Department, endorsed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, that would raise the minimum wage for some fast-food workers to $15 per hour by 2021.

In an eight-page decision, the Industrial Board of Appeals denied each of the arguments put forth by the National Restaurant Association, which challenged the labor department’s wage order on behalf of fast-food chains. The order only applies to chains that have at least 30 locations across the country.

The restaurant association vowed Wednesday to appeal to the Appellate Division of New York’s State Supreme Court.

The labor department’s wage order was based on recommendations from a three-person Fast-Food Wage Board appointed by the labor commissioner at Cuomo’s behest. The commissioner adopted all of the board’s proposals and issued the order on Sept. 10.

“The wage order is not contrary to law,” the appeals board said.

The appeals board’s four members unanimously agreed that the fast-food wage board was properly constituted, though none of the three members came from the fast-food industry.

The appeals board also said the wage board followed state law in determining which portion of the fast-food industry should be subject to a higher hourly wage rate, and based its recommendations on research and expert testimony.

The restaurant association said the wage order “targets the hardworking men and women who own and operate New York’s restaurants.”

Association spokeswoman Christin Fernandez said the appeals board’s decision “says loud and clear New York is not open for business. We . . . plan to take legal action against this arbitrary mandate which is contrary to law.”

Cuomo praised the appeals board’s decision, calling it a “victory for working men and women.” He also said, “No one who works hard should ever be condemned to a life of poverty and that’s why we are continuing the fight today.”

About 24,000 fast-food workers on Long Island will be affected by the $15 wage rate.

Cuomo has promised to press for a $15-per-hour minimum wage across the state when the State Legislature returns to Albany next month. The state minimum wage is $8.75 per hour and will rise to $9 by Dec. 31.


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