Eliminate Wage Board (A.6115 / S.4160)

Date: 2017

A.6115 (Kolb)

S.4160 (DeFrancisco)

MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT

Unshackle Upstate, a non-partisan, pro-taxpayer, pro-economic growth, education and advocacy coalition made up of business and trade organizations from all parts of Upstate New York, opposes this legislation.

If enacted, this bill will eliminate the authority of the Commissioner of Labor to empanel a wage board, and to setting minimum wages administratively.

Unshackle Upstate believes that changes to the state’s minimum wage should be addressed by the state Legislature through the legislative process, not by a gubernatorial appointee. We also believe that the process by which the Fast Food Wage Board was empaneled and made its recommendations was deeply flawed.

Earlier this year, the Governor directed the Acting State Labor Commissioner to empanel a Wage Board to investigate and make recommendations on an increase in the minimum wage in the fast food industry. The Wage Board – consistent with goals of the labor union-driven “Fight for $15” campaign -- recommended that the minimum wage for workers employed by large fast food chains should be raised (in phases) to $15 an hour by 2019 in New York City and by 2022 in the rest of the state. Not surprisingly, the Acting Labor Commissioner accepted the Wage Board’s recommendations in their entirety.

State law should not permit the Executive branch to do an “end run” around the Legislature. The state’s constitution vests legislative authority with the Legislature (NYS Constitution Article III, § 1); this is a critical component of the separation of powers. Significant policy decisions, such as the establishment of the state’s minimum wage, should be determined through the legislative process. Requiring the assent of both houses of the Legislature will ensure that the public’s duly elected representatives decide such matters, not an appointed bureaucrat.

When the Governor directed the Acting Labor Commissioner to empanel a wage board to investigate wages in the Fast Food industry, he made his desire for a specific outcome clear. The Governor’s announcement includes a number of supportive comments from advocates who support a $15 minimum wage.

Further, the Fast Food Wage Board was improperly impaneled, in that it did not include anyone with experience in the Fast Food industry. This is not inconsistent with the spirit of the Labor Law, it defies common sense because it meant that the Fast Food Wage Board was deprived of anyone with actual experience in operating a fast food establishment.

While this may be good politics, it is poor public policy.

The experience of the Fast Food Wage Board – which was established to reach a specific outcome, without regard to the adverse impacts that such an outcome will likely have – makes it clear that the Labor Law needs to be reformed. To that end, this bill will make sure that unelected bureaucrats will no longer be able to order minimum wage increases, leaving this important issue to the public’s elected representatives.

For these reasons, Unshackle Upstate opposes the enactment of this legislation.