Credit: Bill Moore

This week, New York’s wage board was expected to finalize a report recommending a $15 minimum wage for fast-food workers. A public hearing is required before the state labor commissioner makes his final ruling.

Fast-food workers across the state of New York praised the unveiling of the wage board’s ruling last week, seeing it as the first step to living a little more comfortably.

“For the first time in a really long time, I have hope for tomorrow,” said Flavia Cabral, a 53-year-old McDonald’s worker from the Bronx, in a statement. “Tomorrow for me has always meant more bills, more stress, more night shifts and more struggling. Now with $15, it means something better. I can actually buy groceries and be there for my kids and grandkids.”

Two and a half years ago, workers from Burger King, Wendy’s and McDonald’s walked off their jobs in New York City, sparking the “Fast Food Forward” and “Fight for $15” movements. At the time, the state minimum wage was $7.25.

If the state labor commissioner officially approves the fast-food workers minimum wage increase, it would be slowly raised to $15 in New York City by 2018. That would match San Francisco’s timeline. The rest of New York’s fast-food workers would see their $15 wage increase by 2021. 

“Today’s recommendation shows just how far we’ve come in two short years. When we first went on strike for $15 and union rights two years ago, people thought we had no shot, but we believed that we would win, and now we have,” said Alvin Major, a KFC worker in Brooklyn, N.Y. “When Governor [Andrew] Cuomo approves the wage board’s recommendation, it will be a historic moment in our state, which will be felt across the United States and across industries.” 

Barbara Kelley, a Buffalo, N.Y., mother who works at Dunkin’ Donuts and takes home an average of $150 a week, said, ”It is hard to explain to my children why they can’t do things other kids do, even like going to the movies as a family. I work every hour I can get to try to make sure I have enough to pay for things like transportation and medicine and make sure my kids are taken care of, but the money just doesn’t add up.”

With New York City fast-food workers potentially eyeing a major victory, workers in other low-paid professions across the country are calling for a living wage. These include home care and child care workers spanning cities such as Boston, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Calif., Phoenix and Charleston, S.C.

“We need $15 not just in New York, but also in Durham,” said Abdul-Jalil Rasheed-Burnette, 39, a Bojangles’ worker in Durham, N.C., in a statement. “Workers in cities across the country are winning $15, and it’s time that we have $15 here, too. We sparked a global movement that is pushing mega-corporations, cities and now states to raise wages. This week it was Los Angeles County and New York. Tomorrow it will be one of our communities because we know that by joining together and speaking out, we’ll get the pay we need, too.”

Rasheed-Burnette has worked at that Bojangles’ for eight years. He still earns $7.50 an hour.