On the same day New York State's gradual increase to a $15/hour minimum wage for fast food workers was signed into effect, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a similar increase for all other industries statewide.
Cuomo issued the call shortly after acting New York State Labor Commissioner Mario Musolino signed the fast food wage order. The proposed minimum wage increase for all other industries, if Cuomo has his way, would be implemented on the same schedule as the fast food wage hike: by the end of 2018 in New York City and by July 2021 elsewhere in the state.
Reaction was mixed both locally and statewide. Supporting the move in Buffalo was the Coalition for Economic Justice, which states that an increased wage will make a difference for many working families who can finally get out of public assistance, and out of poverty.
"It puts the corporations where they ought to be, paying for people's ability to live decent lives, instead of putting the burden on the taxpayers," said executive director Rev. Kirk Laubenstein.
"Workers across the state have been saying we can't survive on $8.75 (per hour)."
Business groups statewide, though, say a sharp increase in the minimum wage will be economically harmful to small businesses and to communities across Upstate New York. In Buffalo, the president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Dottie Gallagher Cohen, likened the minimum wage increase to a "dam in the river of progress" seen recently in Western New York.
"New York is one of the most business-unfriendly states in the nation," she said. "We already have excessive taxes and high regulation, not only for businesses but for consumers here. Now you're going to bake in very, very high minimum wage labor costs which are going to increase costs across the board. It's lunacy."
The fast food wage increase was favored by a board assembled by Governor Cuomo that included Buffalo mayor Byron Brown. The governor's proposed expanded minimum wage increase is expected to be formally introduced to state legislators in the next session.