BUFFALO, N.Y. -- There was a celebration on the steps of Buffalo City Hall Wednesday as fast food workers and supporters got the news that the state wage board unanimously approved a proposal to increase the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 an hour... the move wasn't welcomed by everyone.
"We started last June, and we never thought we'd be here. So, way to go, gang, we made it!" State Senator Marc Panepinto told the crowd gathered in front of Buffalo City Hall Wednesday afternoon.
One of the fast food workers in the crowd described it as a dream come true. Somalia Doyle, 19, said she relies on her job at Wendy's to help pay for books and other expenses while pursuing her criminal justice degree at Medaille College.
"It's real difficult. I had to take out a loan, $8.75 was not helping at all. Eventually, $15 an hour would definitely help me," said Doyle.
Wednesday's recommendation from the wage board is for the state to make that a reality. Outside of New York City, the increase would take effect slowly, with a bump to $9.75 at the end of this year and going up to $15 in 2021.
"We're not talking about just teenagers here. This is a whole shift from when I was a young person working in these industries to what it is now where this is their full-time job," said Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul.
But not everyone is in favor of the move. Groups including the New York State Restaurant Association said they believe that the ripple effects it will create will be negative. The association released a statement predicting business owners will have to cut hours, lay off employees and use technology to help offset skyrocketing labor costs.
"Instead of pushing for significantly higher wages for entry level, low-skill jobs, this state needs to focus on adopting basic reforms that will generate new opportunities in key jobs sectors and incentivising job creation by encouraging existing businesses to stay and grow in New York," said the Buffalo Niagara Partnership who also spoke out against the move.
"One thing I think people are confused about is where is the cost to these franchise owners," said Buffalo State Economics and Finance Professor Fred Floss.
Floss said he thinks the recommendation was a measured response. He said franchise owners may see less of a profit when they sell out of their business, but it shouldn't make a big day-to-day impact.
"Maybe there won't be quite as many of these franchise stores, but that opens up an opportunity for true mom-and-pop stores and restaurants to come into the area," said Floss.
Those mom-and-pop stores, businesses with fewer than 30 locations, won't be affected by the recommendation. Floss said the major chains that are will have a one-time fixed cost that shouldn't affect hiring or workers' hours.
"The reality is that they're making record profits, and if they want to stay in Buffalo, if they want to stay in New York City, they're going to have to give some of those profits back to the franchises," Floss said.
As for those worries about needing to cut back on hours or hiring, Floss said that would likely only happen if businesses weren't working to maximize profits before this.
Floss also said inflation won't negate the increase, but $15 an hour in 2021 won't be the same as $15 an hour today. He said the incremental increase is also something that will help ease any impact on businesses.