The fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour notched higher after New York officials recommended lifting pay for thousands of fast-food workers throughout the state. The New York Wage Board—appointed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo—will finalize a recommendation to the state's labor commissioner in the coming days.
State governors' power to influence wages without legislative action predates wage orders on government books that go back decades. As New York state and city move to formalize the mandated, minimum rate of $15 an hour over the next few years, the focus shifts to governors in a handful of states that have similar administrative authority to raise pay without legislative action.
New York state's workforce has 180,000 fast-food workers—the fourth highest in the nation.
A key state to watch with similar power is California, led by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
Advocates, meanwhile, are betting this strategy—hinged on the authority of governors—will build local momentum for a higher national minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current $7.25.
A wage board-driven strategy to lift pay "hasn't been done in recent years. This dates back to the '40s and '50s for laundry workers," said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, senior staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project. "We're going to be seeing more of this state and local policy activity."