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New York's Governor Will Circumvent Lawmakers to Raise Fast Food Workers' Wages

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Will other state governors follow a similar path?

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It's no secret that fast food workers — who often only receive minimum wage — are terribly underpaid, with many of them living in poverty. Many states — including AlaskaArkansasRhode Island, and Pennsylvania — have tackled this problem by passing (or may pass) state-wide increases to the minimum wage. According to the New York Times, New York governor Andrew Cuomo was hoping state lawmakers would agree to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 per hour in NYC and $10.50 elsewhere, but they rejected the proposal. Cuomo notes in an NYT Op-Ed that he plans to continue the fight anyways: "While lawmakers delay, I'm taking action."

The governor plans to circumvent lawmakers and increase the pay of fast food workers. To do this he plans to ask the state's labor commissioner to "convene a panel" to look at minimum wage in the fast food industry and make recommendations about what "adequate wages should be." Those recommendations will go into effect without legislative approval. Eater NY notes that the board has three months to make its recommendations.

Cuomo writes, "Nowhere is the income gap more extreme and obnoxious than in the fast-food industry." He adds that the CEOs of fast food companies are some of the most well-paid corporate executives. After all, on average, chain restaurant CEOs make $5,859 per hour while their workers are fighting to make $15 per hour.

Cuomo points out that the majority of fast food workers are not "teenagers who want to earn extra spending money," but that 73 percent are women, more than two-thirds of whom are raising children and are the primary breadwinners in the family. Many fast food workers are heavily dependent upon public assistance to make ends meet, and Cuomo writes that New York State ranked first in spending on assistance per fast food worker in the nation. Even though he has received plenty of criticism over the move — many are angry that he is circumventing lawmakers — Cuomo hopes that through the panel, "New York can set fast-food workers on a path out of poverty, ease the burden on taxpayers and create a new national standard."

The New York governor isn't the only major politician showing support for fast food workers. Last month presidential candidate Hillary Clinton voiced her support for Fight for $15, an organization of activists and fast food workers demanding a higher wage and the right to unionize. Members of the organization are expected to stand with Governor Cuomo as he announces his call for the panel today.