Nearly 70 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s move to increase the minimum wage for fast-food workers in New York.
Unsuccessful in his bid to persuade lawmakers to include a minimum wage hike for New York in the recently enacted budget, last week Cuomo said he would direct the state labor commissioner to convene a panel to determine whether the wages of fast-food workers should be hiked. The wage board’s recommendations, which are expected in about three months, would not need legislative approval.
Cuomo did not say how much he thought fast-food workers should be paid, but his budget proposal called for raising the overall minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state. Nationwide in April, fast-food workers demonstrated to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
While income inequality is a problem throughout the economy, Cuomo wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “nowhere is the income gap more extreme and obnoxious than in the fast-food industry.” The average fast-food CEO made $23.8 million in 2013, he noted, compared with entry-level food service workers’ average annual wage in New York of $16,920.
The governor also said that New York ranks first in public assistance spending per fast-food worker—$6,800 a year, which translates to a $700 million annual cost to taxpayers.
Among those who criticized Cuomo’s move were Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, and the New York State Restaurant Association. Kolb said Cuomo is “attempting to implement public policy by himself, usurping authority from the Legislature,” and NYSRA president and CEO Melissa Fleischut said that “singling out a sector of one industry to have a higher minimum wage than all other occupations is unfair and arbitrary.”
Roughly 750 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted May 11 and 12.
Do you support or oppose Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s move to hike the minimum wage for fast-food workers in New York?
What is concerning here is that wages that high will result in higher menu prices, which will result in fewer customers, which will result in fewer employees. I don’t see how that helps the labor force in fast-food restaurants. Wage rates mandated by government for different segments of the economy is a very scary, slippery slope.
—Laurence Kessler, CEO, Kessler Group Inc.
This is just another example of government meddling in private business. My company operates on lower profit margins than it did 20 years ago. Plus, our costs are higher, with laws and regulations partly to blame. I want Cuomo to promote a law forcing my customers to pay more.
—Sam Messer, Applied Measurement and Controls Inc.
Raise it to $15 per hour. With a decent wage, these workers require less public assistance-saving taxpayers’ money. The corporations can afford it. Stop the greed and rebuild our community.
—Rosemarie McKinney, AFL-CIO
Why should fast-food workers be paid more for an entry-level job than paramedics, lifeguards, EMT and other emergency personnel?
Last week it was fast-food workers. This week it is nail care technicians. How long will it take the governor to work his way through all low-wage occupations, one week at a time? We can argue pros/cons/equal treatment across industries, but the fact is that the Legislature said “no” to raising the minimum wage—it is not acceptable for Gov. Cuomo to go around them with executive branch decrees.
—Juli Klie, Veritor
Only if he wants to close three-quarters of the fast-food restaurants in the state and pay $15 for a value meal.
—Devin Michaels, Chili
We should stop subsidizing McDonalds, et al. If they don’t want to raise their wages, then the state should bill them $6,800 per worker per year to cover the public assistance that the taxpayers are shelling out. That $23.8 million salary for McD’s CEO is being subsidized by the New York State taxpayer.
It makes no sense that our taxes should be subsidizing the fast-food industry via public assistance because they refuse to pay their employees fairly, as in a living wage.
Increasing the minimum wage for fast-food workers is not only arbitrary and unfair to those business owners, but more importantly detrimental to job opportunities in the inner cities where people need them.
Not to insult anyone, but when I was first out on my own I had to have two jobs to get what I needed or wanted. The jobs at the fast-food diners are for entry-level and college kids to earn some money and learn respect for people and others’ property. I don’t believe they are to be made into careers, however if you have drive, the managers in the fast-food industry do OK from what I hear. If they want to demand anything, it should be the same minimum wage everyone else is subject to. That would be fair to everyone.
It seems to me that the minimum wage they are paid is only a fraction of the total compensation they receive, when you consider their tip income.
I can’t see working hard to earn less money than you can on welfare. Let’s raise the rate and institute drug testing for people seeking money they didn’t earn.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
In my opinion, this issue speaks directly to the poor economic condition of New York State. In 2015, we find ourselves in a situation whereby a fast-food job is of such value that a family breadwinner relies on same as their primary source of income. A short 20 years ago, that same breadwinner would be working at a Kodak, a Xerox, a Delphi or other similar large-profile employer. Because of this—the quality of available jobs—our economy is a disaster. Mr./Mrs. Fast Food Worker, your leadership has let you down. You should expect more.
Since Cuomo has never run a business, hired an employee (except government workers) or met a payroll (except one funded by taxpayers), he wouldn’t understand this, but New York is already one of the most expensive places in the country to do business, and raising labor costs will make things worse. We keep losing population to other states, making it up only with immigrants and other welfare seekers. Pretty soon you start running out of money.
I support a minimum wage hike in fast-food industry. Three points: Profits have grown on the shoulders of underpaid workers; these workers are prime candidates for job skills training to move up the food chain of employment; and finally, let’s be realistic about the economic benefits of increased purchasing power.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
Are you kidding?
—Steve Wichtowski, Honeoye
He’s in government, and not doing a very good job of that. Stay out of private business! Why don’t you clean up your own house first?
I support across-the-board minimum wage increases based upon increases in the CPI. Legislation should be passed that provides automatic annual increases as the cost of living rises to all workers.
—Michael Lebowitz, real estate broker
If you are a short-term thinker, you like Cuomo’s idea. If you are a long-term problem solver, you realize that this is political grandstanding at its finest. Minimum wage jobs are the entry-level where teens learn a work ethic. It is also a way for retired people to get some extra income. Every time the minimum wage is raised, thousands of jobs are eliminated. How does that solve anything? What does the pay of a fast-food worker at the local franchise location have to do with the pay of the CEO of the corporation that licenses the franchise? There is no logical correlation. It only hurts the small business owner who runs the location and the workers who are cut. Is raising the minimum wage going to bring a worker significantly closer to that CEO? Of course not. Let’s get the government out of the way so we can grow the economy at a faster rate. That will create more jobs and more opportunities for everyone.
Minimum wage is for new entrants and students. It is not a living wage. It’s for entrance and upward jobs people.
—John Sackett Jr.
The minimum applies to entry-level positions. They are not positions to aspire to or make a career of. Encourage individuals to grow, not stagnate. Cuomo just wants more voters to be captive to his nanny state.
What happened to free enterprise and capitalism? When did we become a socialist country? Oh, Obama and Cuomo got in office. You cannot pay more in welfare than the jobs pay or no one will need to work. How about cutting welfare benefits and supplementing that with a job? There is talk of Social Security running out of money but never welfare. These people need to get to the root cause—giving away taxpayer money to non-productive members of society.
I do both. I support because there is a huge gap between the lowest-paid workers and the highest- paid workers. Why do executives need million-dollar bonuses? I oppose because it’s inflationary. It’ll drive up costs so every consumer will have to pay more. Some might be priced out of the buyer’s market!
A single-industry minimum wage increase is a snub in the nose to everyone else making minimum wages.
I have not a clue why the board of directors allows such obscene pay for CEOs while keeping workers wages so low. I do believe that we should not tamper with wages, let the “supply and demand” decide that. If the fast-food industry cannot attract enough employees, soon they will be looking for a new “more equitable” CEO. Artificially rising wages just starts another round of price escalations!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Spend the effort creating jobs for New York and making New York a more business-friendly state. You create more jobs, employees can be more selective, and employers will need to pay more for good employees. Economics 101. Cuomo: You spent $211 million in advertising on your promoting economic development and tourism, including the Start-Up NY with “no tangible results.” Officials said the primary goal was to “improve perception of the state as a good place to visit and to do business,” DiNapoli’s news release explained. We are done with smoke and mirrors. Spend the money to get results and provide real jobs.
—Mike Hogan, Information Packaging
Does anyone really think that increasing the minimum wage is going to encourage local fast-food managers to hire more workers? If they do, they need to go back and read an Economics 101 book. These are entry-level jobs. People take them, learn skills (like greeting customers and showing up), and move on to other jobs that pay more. By the way, the same textbook would show that raising salaries means raising prices which means fewer customers, which means fewer jobs.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
The question is, does upping the minimum wage to “$11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state” eliminate the “public assistance spending per fast-food worker—$6,800 a year, which translates to a $700 million annual cost to taxpayers”? If so, then I’m for it. But why wouldn’t we increase the minimum wage for all the low-wage workers; Wal-Mart and McDonald’s are the major employers contributing to the problem? This state spends far more on public assistance than any other state, which blows up my (our) tax levy. I could move south to Pennsylvania (my home state) and get an automatic $3,000 to $4,000 income boost through tax-saving and better yet move to South Carolina and double that. Just think of what that would do for the economy. I could spend that extra disposable income on a motorcycle, pool, eating out, home improvements, which would help create jobs and raise my standard of living in the process. I can’t understand why New York State taxes are so high. The U.S. average by state is half of the New York State levy and I don’t see any more people living in the streets or in poverty in the other states. Where does my tax dollar go then? Can’t wait to leave this state.
Who died and made the governor king or emperor? And why does the wage board have the authority to this without the Legislature? What do we elect our assembly persons and state senators for? And what is “more extreme and obnoxious” than the value we don’t get for the wages we pay the governor, elected representatives and the boards they appoint?
—Keith Robinson, Diamond Packaging
The minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage. The minimum wage was meant to be an entry-level wage where workers could learn the basic skill of attendance, punctuality and hard work before they moved on to other jobs. Most fast-food restaurants I frequent are run by high school and sometimes even college students. In this way the minimum wage supports middle- class families and not lower-class families. I’d much rather have someone working and subsidized by government programs than to have them not working and completely subsidized by government programs. Didn’t Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich call that “workfare”?
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.
I do think the minimum wage has fallen woefully behind economic reality. Those who want it to be $15, however, do not have my support at this time. I think the increase should be more gradual, so everyone can deal with the consequences. It won’t hurt those CEOs of the large corporations one bit, but could be harder on small businesses. Like anything else though, it’s better to get used to the "true" cost of goods and services—meaning without the subsidies, hidden and not, behind their pricing. I heard a comment on the news yesterday that a college grad who worked hard to better herself was resentful that a fast food or other minimum wage worker might earn more than she does in the position she’d been able to find. Some disagree with me, but I share her feelings. I worked at my career a very long time to move up to making ~$15 an hour. I stayed in that job because the degree I earned while working was not in a field that paid even that much. I think moving the minimum wage to $10 per hour would be a great improvement, then to $12, etc.
—Margie Campaigne, Margie’s Green Home Consulting
Can anyone please explain why Andrew Cuomo or any other mastermind politician is qualified to determine what wage a business pays its employees? In a free-market society (which I question that we still have), a business owner pays its workers based on demand and what he or she can afford.
—Todd Black, Black’s Hardware
I agree with the New York State Restaurant Association. The minimum wage should not be specialized to just the fast food industry as that would unfair to workers in other industries. I am unsure of the exact minimum wage laws in New York, but minimum wage rules should only apply to workers 21 years and older. To require businesses to pay part-time teenagers over $10 an hour seems excessive.
—Mike Guche, Canfield & Tack Inc.
Even if the governor has the power to change the minimum wage for fast-food workers why should they be singled out above all the other low-wage earners? I believe that if any changes are to be made they should be done through the normal legislative process.
—Craig E. Densmore, Penn Yan
Look how well it’s working in Seattle.
—Frank Gerham Jr.
As the economy improves, so does the labor market. Low-wage nationals like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart have already raised their minimum wage to ensure they can keep good employees. Meanwhile government has raised the minimum wage in places like San Francisco hurting small merchants and causing job losses. Certainly, a hike in the minimum wage will help many people. But, what if you’re one of those who loses their job?
—John Calia, Fairport
I would rather have the job market drive the cost of labor than have government regulate it. Perhaps having the government publicly report the wage statistics for the lowest 1 percent of employees for every business would shame some businesses into increasing wages. Another option is to have an age limit on the minimum wage. For example, have the minimum wage apply to anyone 22 years old and older. This would open the entry level job market for young adults who just need to gain experience. Increasing the minimum wage will only lead to automation of entry level jobs.
No way! Fast-food workers are no more skilled than any other class of labor at or near the minimum wage. This would just be overt bias in favor of those that protest the loudest.
—Hal Gaffin, Fairport
Minimum wage is just that—a minimum. It is not meant to be a living wage and to treat it that way is laughable. To punish restaurants that provide a first job to many teenagers is also a huge mistake. I only hope that rational people will choose to not implement this.
—Tom Wahl Jr.
Instead of hiking the minimum wage for one sector, why not require that all restaurants pay their employees the current minimum wage plus tips. The problem lies in the fact that restaurants are not required to pay their employees minimum wage. Expecting that they will make up the difference from tips. This way of thinking needs to be updated to current standards. They could require all New York employers pay their employees the stated minimum wage. This would include paper delivery people, people in the hotel business. Why just give the restaurant workers a break? Look hard enough and you will find many people legally not making the minimum wage. Then everyone can expect the prices to go up to cover all the required costs associated with wages, both state and federal.
5/15/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.