Taking Wage Campaign to Albany

May 20, 5:57 PM EDT

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Fast food workers from around New York state rallied at the Statehouse on Tuesday to demand a higher minimum wage and support legislation that would let cities and towns set their own wage rules.

The state minimum is currently $8 an hour and is to increase to $9 at the end of 2015.

Several dozen employees gathered in front of a McDonalds located at the Statehouse complex as state workers and visitors lined up for lunch.

Shantel Walker, who makes $8.50 an hour at a Brooklyn pizzeria, said local governments should be able to set their own minimum wages to account for regional differences in the cost of living.

“I told my boss `this pay is my bread and butter, but it’s turning into margarine,'” said Walker, who said she often makes more than 200 pizzas in a shift. “Just look at my paycheck. It’s not enough to live on.”

The bill to give local governments control over the minimum wage is one of several pieces of legislation relating to the wage. Another would set the wage at $9 per hour at the end of 2014 and would tie future increases to inflation.

In a statement Tuesday, the New York State Restaurant Association opposed local control over the minimum wage. The group said the arrangement would add turmoil to an already confusing state labor law, and said only the state, not cities, are equipped to enforce the law.

“Allowing localities to set different minimum wages would take away the predictability and stability that a uniform statewide standard creates for New York businesses,” the group said. “… this law would have a chaotic effect on the New York economy.”

Business groups also have argued that raising the wage or letting cities set their own would increase the costs on business owners, forcing them to raise prices or cut back on employee positions or hours.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Monday that he wants lawmakers to vote to raise the wage before ending their legislation session next month.


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