Wage Board approves wage increase for fast food workers

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York Wage Board unanimously agreed to increase the pay of fast food workers, but many are questioning how much it should go up.

“Anything right now would help,” Jacquie Jordan said.

Jordan has worked in the fast food business her entire life. But she said it’s not much of a life when she only makes $8.75 an hour.

“I was tired of not making a living and not given a chance,” she said.

She and other fast food workers are calling on New York’s Wage Board to raise their pay to $15 an hour. All three members of the board agreed pay should increase; one said it should reach $15 an hour as soon as possible.

But many feel a $7 hike is too much for fast food workers, and they’d rather see an increase go to other jobs such as paramedics, firefighters and teachers.

“They’re not risking their lives like some firefighters,” Darshan Patel of North Greenbush said. “They volunteer and those who do get paid for it, they don’t get that much, either.”

That’s a reality for EMT and firefighter Scott Coonrad. He’d rather see wage hikes across the board rather than solely in the fast food industry.

“Making $11 an hour and have to work two jobs,” he said. “That’s just not fair.”

New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state labor law allows Governor Andrew Cuomo to target a specific industry where wages aren’t proportioned to the workload.

She said many fast food workers have families, and their schedules aren’t consistent.

“Twenty-six percent have children at home,” she said. “They’re making $17,000 a year for full-time work. You could not live in the state of New York making $17,000.”

But many people like Michele Drake feel minimum wage pay is meant to be a starting point and not a long-term sustainable wage.

“I did my share of working minimum wage jobs for a long time,” she said. “I worked as a custodian.”

Now, she’s a teacher and doesn’t make much more than $15 an hour.

“I have a master’s degree,” she said. “I’m a school teacher, and that’s about half of what I make. That’s a lot.”

When a wage increase is implemented, a price increase usually follows.

The Wage Board said there will likely be an increase in fast food prices but said it should be relatively small. Minimum wage is currently $8.75 an hour.

By the end of 2015, minimum wage will jump to $9 an hour, but that will apply to everyone.

Board members said they are still deciding how much of an increase they will recommend for fast food workers.

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