New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended a proposal Wednesday to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 an hour, saying that claims that the move would cost workers jobs were an "idle threat."
"You know, always, that's the threat of business: 'if you make me raise the wage, I'll reduce workers.' But, you know, McDonald's and Burger King, these companies — you have to have someone on the other side of the counter, right? So I think that's just an idle threat," Cuomo told reporters Wednesday. His comments came after a wage board he created in May to examine the issue officially backed the increase.
Under the proposal, all corporate franchises restaurants in the city must pay $10.50 starting Dec. 31 and increase it by $1.50 increments each subsequent year until 2018.
The proposal is prompting an outcry from businesses but is being applauded by organized labor and liberal groups that have made the $15 minimum a crusade. Over the last year the wage rate has been adopted by cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sea-Tac. On Tuesday, Los Angeles County voted to adopt it as well, having previously postponed a over vote due to objections from business owners.
"We applaud Governor Cuomo for recognizing the struggles of low-wage workers and for his leadership on this issue. By calling for the Wage Board, the governor made this increase possible," New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said.
Declared Fight for $15, a nonprofit group backed by the Service Employees International Union: "We won in Seattle, in San Francisco, in LA — and now we're on the cusp in ALL of New York state."
Business groups vowed to fight it. The International Franchise Association said the the rule was unfair, noting that the distinction between fast food and other restaurants was not clear and that most fast-food franchises are privately owned small businesses.
"Applying a new mandatory minimum wage increase to a narrow group of businesses creates an un-level playing field for owners that provide important entry level jobs and valuable experience for millions of workers across the state of New York. If Governor Cuomo wishes to advance a wage increase, it should cover all of New York's businesses, not just a select few," said franchise association President and CEO Steve Caldeira.