Caretakers who make $10/hr. voice concerns about fast food wage

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Following Wednesday’s recommendation to raise the minimum wage of fast food workers to $15 an hour by the year 2021, other industries are reacting with how the dictate by the state could negatively hurt them.

Specifically, government funded places where workers start around $10 an hour, like the home run by the ARC, where their workers take care of people with disabilities. Warren, Washington & Albany Counties Chapter of NYSARC, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that serves more than 900 individuals.

Employees of the ARC along with other residents there are helping to make dinner. Many of the ARC workers start out at $10 or $11 an hour and their bosses fear a $15 fast food mandate will cost them workers.

On a day to day basis, Emily Wheeler works with about seven or eight people in a classroom setting.

“Like my friend Lanay, they may walk with a walker and a gate belt, but that doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t enjoy her day. It’s my responsibility to make sure that she’s enjoying her day. She is fed, she is clean, she has been to the bathroom, and she is cared for and safe all day long,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler started working with ARC 17 years ago, finally earning up to $15.33 an hour: her current salary.

“You could go flip burgers at McDonald’s for $15 an hour, but there’s a lot of responsibility in our job,” Wheeler said.

“When we heard yesterday, raising the fast food to $15 is an hour is going to save lives, immediately it evokes so much emotion from our folks who are making on average five dollars less an hour,” said Jennifer McCullough, Senior Director of PR and Development.

Jennifer McCullough works at the Warren, Washington, and Albany ARC. She says its already difficult bringing in people for these jobs at $10 or $11 an hour and that the vacancy rate is already dangerous.

“Ironically it’s actually the state and federal government who sets the wage rate for our direct support professionals and what’s really got our industry up in arms is that the government now was mandating the private sector raise the minimum wage to $15, in the private sector, yet in an industry where the federal and state government pay the wages, they are saying that $10 to $11 dollars is acceptable,” said Peter Guidarelli, Director of grants and government relations at ARC.

“You have to do it because you love the folks and you love what you do,” said Wheeler.

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