Juliana LabiancaFreeman Klopott
Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., the owner of Dunkin’ Donuts, upbraided New York regulators over a plan to boost fast-food wages to $15 an hour, a move the company said could lead to price increases.
A wage board formed by Governor Andrew Cuomo arrived at the decision without involvement from the restaurant industry, Dunkin’ Chief Executive Officer Nigel Travis said on a conference call Thursday.
“We’re deeply disappointed that the governor chose to skirt the legislative process by appointing a wage board, which did not even include a representative from our industry,” he said. “Our franchisees, and in fact other company’s franchisees, were denied the chance to fairly express their concerns.”
The board recommended on Wednesday that the minimum wage for fast-food workers be raised to $15 by 2018 in New York City and three years later in the rest of the state. Cuomo has indicated that his labor commissioner, who has final say, will follow the board’s advice, though adjustments may be possible. The increase, which will be phased in annually, applies to fast-food chains with 30 or more locations.
Dunkin’ is contemplating ways to adjust to the pay increase, Travis said. One option is boosting prices, he said.
Travis complained that the fast-food industry was singled out by regulators, a concern echoed by McDonald’s Corp. Chief Financial Officer Kevin Ozan during a conference call Thursday. McDonald’s wants minimum-wage increases to “deal with all industries similarly,” he said. Ozan didn’t discuss New York City’s wage hike specifically.
Picking on fast food alone will put those businesses at a competitive disadvantage, said Randy Mastro, an attorney hired by a group of New York franchisees. The proposal, he said, targets business owners who are “already struggling to survive on low margins and cannot afford this 66 percent increase in labor costs for their entry-level workers.”
Restaurant companies have come under increasing pressure to boost pay over the past year. Large chains have a corporate social responsibility to pay a fair wage, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president at research firm Technomic Inc.
“If you’re a chain, it may feel like you’re being targeted, that it’s making it harder to be successful,” he said. “But it’s the right thing to do.”
In response to Dunkin’ complaints, Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever referred to comments the governor made at a rally in New York City. At the event, he said higher wages are needed for workers to live a decent life.
“You cannot live and support a family on $18,000 a year in the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “That’s why we have to raise the minimum wage.”