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Local workers celebrate $15 minimum wage recommendation

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

While the higher minimum wage for New York fast-food workers likely won't start kicking in until the end of the year, speaker after speaker in front of Buffalo City Hall Wednesday saw the decision as symbolic. A state wage board headed by Mayor Brown met in Manhattan Wednesday and voted to recommend the $15 rate. The long and tangled process means a final decision is months away, even with Governor Andrew Cuomo pushing hard for it. 

Wages in New York City, with a better business situation and higher costs, mean the rate will top out three years before it hits the top rate upstate. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul praised the governor for bypassing the Legislature to raise the rate.

"On behalf of the taxpayers of the state who spend over $700,000 in subsidies for workers of fast food companies to help with public assistance because they are not being paid enough by CEOs who earn on average $23 million a year. It just does not work. That's why today, everything changes," Hochul said on the steps of Buffalo's City Hall.

With the wage board meeting online, many of the comments at a viewing party in a City Hall conference room were along those same economic populist lines.

"It's about time in this day and age for how expensive things are. The economy is rising. So should the minimum wage," said proponent Brent Smith.

At the outdoor rally, Politician after politician praised the result and say the economy will benefit from people having more money to spend.

A Dunkin' Donuts worker calling himself Anverios says more money will help.

"I live with my mom but it's really hard to find my own place and help my mom with my bills," he said. "$8.75 [an hour] really doesn't do much."

The recommendations don't cover every single restaurant, but mostly chains with more than 30 shops across the state. If approved, the first raises would take effect with the new year.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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