Fast Food Workers Just Achieved Something Big in New York

May 7th 2015

Sarah Gray

On Thursday morning, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he is calling on a Wage Board to lift the minimum wage for fast-food workers in his state. The announcement was timed with a New York Times op-ed, where Cuomo wrote: "On Thursday, I am directing the commissioner to impanel such a board, to examine the minimum wage in the fast-food industry. The board will return in about three months with its recommendations, which do not require legislative approval."

Cuomo appeared with Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry, and fast-food workers from the Fight for $15 who work at places such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, and Papa John’s -- demonstrating the momentum of the Fight for $15 movement. Two-and-a-half years ago, 200 cooks and cashiers from fast-food restaurants walked off the job to protest low wages. The movement became the Fight for $15, and it encompasses not just fast-food workers but home health care workers, child care workers and other low-wage workers. On April 15 of this year, the Fight for $15 held protests around the world calling for a livable wage. ATTN: covered the protests in Downtown Los Angeles, and shared several stories from local fast-food workers.

The federal minimum wage is $7:25; in New York it is $8.75, and will move to $9 at the end of this year. As Cuomo pointed out in his op-ed, fast-food workers are not just teenagers looking to get extra cash, "73 percent are women, 70 percent are over the age of 20, and more than two-thirds are raising a child and are the primary wage earners in their family." ATTN: busted other myths surrounding the minimum wage, including the fact that it is not the highest it has ever been, and that you can afford college with only a minimum wage salary:

Many fast food workers do not have enough to support their families. A 2013 report from the University of California at Berkeley’s Labor Center along with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found that 52 percent of fast-food workers' families are enrolled in one or more forms of public assistance -- from SNAP to Medicaid to the Children's Health Insurance Fund. Overall, this costs taxpayers $7 billion. Meanwhile, many fast-food executives are making more than 1,000 times the salary of their average worker.  

"While workers in the fast-food industry are struggling, the industry is healthy, having taken in $195 billion in global revenues last year, a sum that is projected to grow to $210 billion by 2018," Cuomo wrote in his op-ed. "McDonald’s brought in $4.67 billion last year; Burger King earned $291.1 million. The government is subsidizing these corporations, allowing them to keep their labor costs low and their profit margins high."

You can add your voice to ATTN:'s petition to raise the minimum wage below.