In the years since New York and other liberal cities celebrated raising the minimum wage for workers to $15 an hour, many fast-food restaurant employees have reported being inordinately terminated for minor infractions.
To combat the issue of such terminations, which they see as “unfair,” two Democratic city council members in New York have introduced bills that would diminish the power employers have over their workforce.
According to the New York Daily News, a bill from council members Adrienne Adams and Brad Lander, who represent districts in Queens and Brooklyn respectively, would prevent employers from terminating employment for any reason other than “misconduct or failure to do the job.” The bill also equates employers reducing their employees’ hours by 15 percent or more to the employees being fired.
Another bill introduced by Adams and Lander would force establishments to base firings or layoffs during times of economic hardship on employee seniority.
The proposed “Just Cause” legislation comes after a number of restaurant employees complained in a survey of losing their jobs for minor infractions, or in some cases, for no reason at all.
“Too many fast-food workers have been fired without a just cause, without a warning, without even any notice,” Lander said. “And if you can be fired simply on the whim of an angry boss or a disgruntled customer’s complaint, then you’re far more vulnerable to harassment or abuse.”
While it is certainly valid to fight being unjustly fired, employees, along with Lander and Adams, should also be aware of how increased operating costs might leave businesses with no other choice but to let go of employees whose wages are costing them too much.
Restaurants that have managed to stay afloat, despite having to hike up their prices and pass the increased operating expenses along to their customers, could decide that the cost of doing business is simply too great.
That could leave many more young or unskilled workers with no jobs at all.
Raising the minimum wage for food workers may have seemed like a good idea to workers at the time, but it has clearly come with many negative consequences in New York and other cities.
A minimum wage hike hit restaurants in Seattle particularly hard, where dining establishments simply cannot afford to stay open.
As a result, many food workers in the city have found themselves without a paycheck. The city’s reeling business community is still struggling to adapt to the added labor costs.
“In order to buy great product and pay a great wage that people can live on in our city … the math just doesn’t work,” Seattle chef Matt Dillon said to the Seattle Times when he announced his restaurant would be closing. “There’s gonna be a reckoning, big time. I don’t think it’s gonna be pretty.”
Seattle’s minimum has risen progressively since 2014 and will top out at $15 an hour next year, according to CNBC.
New York City is taking the issue farther by proposing to become the first city to dictate to restaurants when and how they will deploy their labor force.
Businesses in the Empire State, with already razor-thin profits margins, could choose to continue to offset payroll costs through automation or through staff reductions.
Computers, after all, don’t get sick, don’t take smoke breaks and won’t argue with customers.
Restaurant owners could also choose to pack up and leave cities and states where it is becoming cost-prohibitive to operate.
As one New York restaurant chief executive told The New York Times, “Ultimately I’m a fan of making our employees’ lives better but some of these rules make it really, really challenging for us to operate.”
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is currently the frontrunner to win the party’s nomination, supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour — a move supported by other Democratic candidates.
Billionaire Tom Steyer has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $22 an hour, FOX Business reported.
In evaluating a nationwide minimum wage increase, the Congressional Budget Office concludes, “By boosting the income of low-wage workers who keep their jobs, a higher minimum wage raises their families’ real income, lifting some of those families out of poverty. However, income falls for some families because other workers lose their jobs and business owners must absorb at least some of the higher costs of labor. For those reasons, the net effect of a minimum-wage increase is to reduce average family income.”
If Democrats have their way, businesses seeking relief from the undue burden of government over-regulation might just find themselves with no safe place to operate, and workers will find themselves without a place to work.
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