Cuomo’s Error Not The First In Targeting Fast Food Industry

Ryan Williams Senior Advisor, Worker Center Watch
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The embarrassment was swift for Governor Andrew Cuomo. Less than a day after New York’s top official penned an op-ed for the New York Times calling for a wage increase for fast food workers, a significant error was discovered by Capital New York in his magnum opus. In making the case for an arbitrary wage increase aimed at a specific industry, Cuomo argued that “more than two-thirds” of fast food employees are raising a child.

The governor – or his speechwriters – lifted the supposed statistic from a study by the Center for Economic Policy Research. For those not familiar with the CEPR, its stated purpose is to “promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives.” It’s also heavily supported by left-leaning foundations and labor groups like the Service Employees International Union.

However, the CEPR study actually found that 26 percent of workers have children – not “more than two-thirds.” Apparently either Cuomo or someone on his staff counted two statistics as being mutually exclusive: the first claiming that 26.6 percent of workers over age 16 are raising a child; the second purporting that 36.4 percent over age 20 have a child. The problem is that the second number includes the first. The error not only slipped by Cuomo’s office but also the fact checkers at the New York Times.

The rest of Cuomo’s op-ed is rife with language lifted almost directly from union-affiliated groups like and Working Families Party. For its part, NELP is one of many labor-friendly think tanks and research organizations that receive steady funding from the SEIU. According to the latest reports filed by the union with the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the SEIU gave NELP $200,000 last year alone. Its little surprise that NELP offers research and opinions that coincide with labor’s overarching goals to organize various sectors of the economy such as the fast food industry. Like NELP, the CEPR serves to legitimatize union claims. These pseudo-think tanks also support messaging from the web of SEIU front groups such as “Fight for 15.”

But did Cuomo, or anyone else for that matter, question the bigger picture when it comes to workers raising children? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor force participation rate for all mothers with children under age 18 was 70.1 percent in 2014. The BLS found that “mothers with younger children are less likely to be in the labor force than mothers with older children. In 2014, the labor force participation rate of mothers with children under 6 years old (64.2 percent) was lower than the rate of those whose youngest child was 6 to 17 years old (74.7 percent).”

What Cuomo fails to admit is that fast food employees are not unique in raising children while working outside the home. If anything, the industry is providing much-needed jobs to those supporting a family who may not hold a degree or advanced training.

Rather than seeing the fast food industry as an entry into the workforce for those who need it the most, Governor Cuomo hasmade the counterintuitive leap in logic that the sector is somehow holding workers back. His solution is to appoint a fast food “wage board” that will “examine” the issue over the next three months and reach a conclusion on whether to mandate an arbitrary wage increase. If you don’t think the wage board’s future finding remain a foregone conclusion, think again. Cuomo himself wrote: “Through the Wage Board, New York can set fast-food workers on a path out of poverty, ease the burden on taxpayers and create a new national standard.”

The kangaroo court being convened in New York is even more outlandish because it will undoubtedly rely on more flawed research from Cuomo’s labor allies. Labor has been slammed before for conducting spurious surveys that fail established research standards.

Unfortunately, neither logic nor flawed research will prevent Cuomo from moving ahead with his punitive plan against the fast food industry. The pre-determined wage hike will block more young people from entering the workforce while increasing costs for consumers and making it even more difficult for small business owners to stay afloat. Cuomo is right about one thing, however, New York will set a “standard” for other states. It will set the standard for how far government can overreach at the risk of hemorrhaging a recovering economy and stagnating employment opportunities for young people entering the job market.