Democratic Lawmakers Push Higher Wage Mandates for Big Businesses

Daniel Squadron announces his fair wage bill

Daniel Squadron announces his fair wage bill

Fast food and retail workers could see their hourly wages raised to $15–at least if a slate of Democratic pols get their way.

At a press conference on the steps of City Hall this morning, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic unveiled a new “fair wage” bill that would require large employers to pay far more than minimum wage.

“New York’s minimum wage does not go far enough to keep families out of poverty,” said Mr. Squadron. “Large chains, from McDonald’s to 7-Eleven, have high profits and lower costs, yet they still pay their workers poverty wages.”

“If you look at the Women’s Center self-sufficiency study,” Ms. Brewer argued, “$15 is exactly the amount … that a family needs with childcare, and food, and rent, and clothing, all the expenses.”

The bill would only apply to large businesses, defined as employers that earn at least $50 million in yearly revenue or have at least 11 franchises. Businesses specifically targeted include fast food restaurants, “big box” stores, and transportation-related business, such as the companies that contract airport workers. Manufacturing companies are excluded from the bill.

Mr. Squadron also argued that his legislation would yield another benefit: fewer New Yorkers on government assistance.

“We, the government and the people are subsidizing at an enormous rate,” he said. “Food stamps, earned income tax credit, housing subsidies. And the truth is, those are all great programs. But we shouldn’t have the largest, most profitable companies be the ones that most squeeze their workers.”

Bills like Mr. Squadron’s, however, face an uphill battle in the state legislature, which is partially controlled by Republicans who have often been cold to higher wage mandates. Just last year, Senate Republicans reluctantly agreed to allow the statewide minimum wage to eventually rise to $9 an hour and they may not be inclined to raise it further. A spokesman for the group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But the advocates today said that amount simply wasn’t enough.

“If you think you can live on a minimum wage, just try it,” Ms. Brewer said. “You cannot do it in this city”