On Wednesday, Democratic New York legislators announced a proposal to increase the minimum wage at large chains to $15 an hour. The bill would apply to businesses with yearly sales greater than $50 million or establishments that have more than 11 locations across the country.
State Sen. Daniel Squadron is sponsoring the Fair Wage Act, which would require large franchise stores like McDonald’s and Walmart to pay their employees a “fair wage.” He said fast-food restaurants and big-box stores have the ability to pay their workers more for their labor, something small businesses aren’t necessarily capable of.
“Workers deserve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work,” said Squadron. “New York’s minimum wage does not go far enough to keep families out of poverty. Large chains, from McDonalds to 7-Eleven, have higher profits and lower costs, yet they still pay their workers poverty wages. We should raise the wage across the board in New York – and require those businesses that can most afford it to pay more."
The bill is supported by low-wage workers and groups who advocate aligning wages with the cost of living. "No one can survive on $8 an hour,” said New York Communities for Change Political and Legislative Director Gabriel Gallucci.
Some business groups oppose the bill because they say it would negatively impact franchise owners. Partnership for New York City President and Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Wylde said there isn’t enough information on how such a policy would impact the economy of the state. “[Franchises] tend to be family-owned businesses, and a small franchise often doesn’t have the margins to even support a family,” Wylde said. “I think there may be a lack of understanding of how narrow the margins are in these franchise businesses, and I would like to see a study and analysis with industry input, before the legislators go off kind of half-cocked to legislate in an area where I doubt they have the information they need to write a sound bill.”
The bill doesn’t have a clear path to passage, as the 2013-2014 New York state budget included a provision to incrementally raise the state's minimum wage, reaching $9 per hour by the end of 2015. Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted the ability to set a minimum wage for his city, but the proposal was rejected by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other lawmakers.
State Sen. Dean Skelos has already announced his opposition to the bill.
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