Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a plan to get a minimum wage hike that doesn't require legislative approval.
In an op-ed letter in The New York Times, Cuomo says he will direct the state labor commissioner to examine the minimum wage in the fast-food industry.
Cuomo noted that state law empowers the labor commissioner to investigate whether wages paid in a specific industry or job classification are sufficient to provide for the life and health of those workers. If they're not, a wage board can be impaneled to recommend what adequate wages should be.
Cuomo said he will direct the commissioner on Thursday to set up such a board. The panel will give its recommendations in about three months, and they won't require legislative approval.
Labor organizers have been pushing for pay of $15 an hour and a union for fast-food workers since late 2012. The campaign is being backed by the Service Employees International Union and has included ongoing protests around the country, lawsuits at home and abroad and other actions. And later this month, organizers say they're planning to protest again outside McDonald's annual shareholder meeting.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the minimum wage a national law in 1938 and Cuomo said minimum wages have not kept pace with the rising cost of living.
The governor focused on fast-food workers and their families. He said they are twice as likely to receive public assistance compared with other working families. Among fast-food workers nationwide, 52 percent — a rate higher than in any other industry — have at least one family member on welfare, he wrote.
New York state ranks first in public assistance spending per fast-food worker, $6,800 a year, Cuomo wrote. That's a $700 million annual cost to taxpayers.
Cuomo said the income gap in the fast-food industry is more extreme than any other. He noted that fast-food CEOs are among the highest-paid corporate executives, making an average of $23.8 million in 2013. Adjusting for inflation, that's more than quadruple the average from 2000, Cuomo wrote.
Meanwhile, entry-level food-service workers in New York State earn, on average, $16,920 per year, which at a 40-hour week amounts to $8.50 an hour, he wrote, adding that nationally, wages for fast-food workers have increased 0.3 percent since 2000 when inflation is taken into consideration.