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Fifteen dollars per hour sets precedent

Stuart Appelbaum | 7/30/2015, 8:18 p.m.
If $8.75 isn’t enough for fast-food workers, it isn’t enough for retail workers or any of the other hardworking New ...
Stuart Applebaum

If $8.75 isn’t enough for fast-food workers, it isn’t enough for retail workers or any of the other hardworking New Yorkers who still find themselves in poverty.

$15 an hour for fast-food workers shows us the way

The proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s wage board to raise the wages of fast-food workers throughout New York to $15 an hour means a chance at a better life for many working people in the state. But more importantly, it establishes two principles in addressing the growing wage inequality that has made life a struggle for low-wage workers.

First, the wage board’s decision declares, once and for all, that the state’s current minimum hourly wage of $8.75 is far too low, and it’s inadequate for working New Yorkers who are trying to survive. We need to take action.

Second, by raising fast-food wages in New York City more quickly than the rest of the state, the wage board proposal acknowledges that the cost of living in the city is higher than throughout the rest of the state. Worker advocates have argued for years that it’s important to recognize that wages that may be appropriate in the rest of the state aren’t sufficient in New York City.

We applaud the decision of Cuomo to convene the wage board and address the issue of economic inequality head on. In announcing the wage board’s decision, he said nobody can “live and support a family on $18,000 per year in the state of New York,” and he’s right.

For many low-wage workers, life is a daily struggle to get by. Even when they are fortunate enough to have full-time jobs, parents grapple with choosing between paying the bills or buying food. For these workers, keeping their families out of poverty is an uphill battle. And, by allowing business to pay poverty wages, we force taxpayers to pick up the slack because so many workers have no choice but to seek out public assistance. The cost of these poverty-wage jobs on our society and our state is tremendous.

Raising the wages of fast-food workers shows us there is a path we must follow to raise worker standards in New York. We call upon the state Legislature to raise the minimum wage for everyone. If $8.75 isn’t enough for fast-food workers, it isn’t enough for retail workers, car wash workers, airport workers, home health care workers or any of the other hardworking New Yorkers who still find themselves in poverty.

Low-wage workers need more in New York, and raising the fast-food workers’ wage to $15 sets a precedent. The bar has been set, and it’s our responsibility to fight for at least $15 an hour for all working people in New York.