Photo courtesy of Fast Food Forward, which has been advocating for a $15/hour minimum wage for fast food workers

ITHACA, N.Y. — Fast food workers in New York state will be paid a minimum wage of $15 an hour within a few years.

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That’s the result of a vote held today by a New York State wage board, which unanimously recommended the increase in pay for fast food workers. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the state’s labor commissioner is expected to approve the recommendation.

The changes will take a few years to implement. The fast food workers in New York City will earn at least $15 an hour by Dec. 31, 2018, and those in the rest of the state will earn at least that amount by July 1, 2021, according to the Village Voice.
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The Village Voice reports the timeline for wage increases: 

For New York City:
$10.50 on December 31, 2015
$12 on December 31, 2016
$13.50 on December 31, 2017
$15 on December 31, 2018

For New York State:
$9.75 on December 31, 2015
$10.75  on December 31, 2016
$11.75  on December 31, 2017
$12.75 on December 31, 2018
$13.75 on December 31, 2019
$14.50 on December 31, 2020
$15 on July 1, 2021

The decision follows months of advocacy from workers’ rights groups, who have argued that the increase will deliver badly needed raises for low-wage fast food workers. The current state-wide minimum wage is $8.75 and will go up to $9 at the end of the year.

The new rule could face challenges. “The International Franchise Association has promised to sue in federal court, as it has in Seattle over that city’s across-the-board minimum wage increase,” Syracuse.com reports.

Photo courtesy of Fast Food Forward, which has been advocating for a $15/hour minimum wage for fast food workers

Several business leaders have strongly criticized the idea.

Reports WHEC:

Business owners say an increase in the minimum wage is a double-edged sword. The increase to $15 an hour for fast food workers would help employees but it could also hurt employers.

“It kind of worries me a bit. Honestly I feel like it’s going to make a huge shift in the fast food industry.” Carmelo Calascibetta worries a minimum wage increase could jeopardize his business. As the manager at Cams Pizzeria in Penfield, he says paying employees more would likely lead to price hikes for consumers.

Adds The Nation:

The governor is … expected to make final approval to set a new sector-specific wage—a unique mechanism that, similar to President Obama’s recent executive actions on federal worker wages, can bypass the legislature. The measure marks a major milestone for the Fight for 15 movement, which started in New York over two years ago when a small group of workers decided to walk off the job.

This story is developing and we’ll be providing updates.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.