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Letter: Wage board has the power to change workers’ lives

Wage board has the power to change workers’ lives

The Fast Food Wage Board hearings, featuring testimony from fast food workers struggling to survive on $8.75, represent a historic moment in the pursuit of a more equitable New York State. The fact of the matter is this: in recent years, wages have stagnated, despite worker productivity being on the rise.

Cornell University’s High Road Fellowship program – and my year as a worker in the fast food industry – have both allowed me to see how income inequality entrenches itself in the day-to-day lives of ordinary, hardworking people – people who are not paid a fair wage for their labor.

Executives at fast-food companies hoard profits for themselves – the average fast-food CEO earned over $23 million in 2013 – while fast-food workers remain as the lowest-paid workers in the newly restructured service-based American economy.

While workers struggle, executives live lives of lavishness.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proactive solution by creating this wage board, which could raise the wages of fast-food workers to $15 per hour, can potentially save taxpayers some of the estimated $7 billion, according to a UC-Berkeley Labor Center report, they provide in public assistance to 52 percent of families with a fast-food worker in the household. When the Wage Board recommends a new wage floor for workers in the fast-food industry, it is imperative that that wage floor is set at $15 per hour.

There has never been a more important time to stand up for a more equitable, ethical and fair New York State.

Kyle Friend

Coalition for Economic Justice