From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be joined by local and national labor leaders along with several thousand fast food workers and their union allies to formally announce his plan to convene a wage board to examine raising the minimum wage in the fast food industry.

The announcement will take place shortly after noon at Union Square in Manhattan. SIEU International President Mary Kay Henry will be on hand, and will likely have a speaking role along with 32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa.

Cuomo laid out his wage board plan in a New York Times OpEd yesterday following rampant speculation in labor circles that a significant announcement on one of the left’s top agenda items was imminent.

In his OpEd, Cuomo invoked President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who made the minimum wage a national law in 1938, and defined “minimum” as “more than a bare subsistence level…the wages of a decent living.”

“Nowhere is the income ago more extreme or obnoxious than the fast food industry,” Cuomo wrote, noting that the average fast-food CEO earned $23.8 million in 2013, while entry level workers in the industry in New York earn, on average, $16,920 annually.

The governor has not mentioned anything about giving the board a target wage to consider. But advocates have been pushing for fast food worker wages to rise to $15 an hour through the “Fight for $15” campaign.

New York is fourth in the nation in its number of fast food workers, with some 180,000 people employed in a wide variety of restaurants across the state.

New York also ranks first in the nation in public assistance spending for fast food workers, doling out about $6,800 a year, advocates say.

That comes out to be some $700 million annually shelled out by taxpayers to subsidize the poverty-level wages provided by the industry to its employees.

The governor’s wage board move is major win for labor unions and their allies on the left, which have made a minimum wage increase the centerpiece of their push for elected officials to address the income inequality gap.

The “Fight for $15” campaign has sparked walkouts and demonstrations across the state and the nation over the past year. And advocates hope this move by Cuomo – which has never been tried before – will spark similar actions across the nation, and perhaps even influence the 2016 presidential race.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has been spreading the income inequality message across the nation, and has called for the governor to give him the power to raise the hourly wage higher in NYC than whatever floor is set by the state, arguing such a move is necessary due to the higher-than-average cost of living in the five boroughs.

This week, the Assembly passed a bill that would increase the minimum wage in New York City and its suburbs – including Westchester County – to $15 an hour by the end of 2018 and to $12.60 statewide.

That is considerably further than the governor himself proposed going in his executive budget, in which he boosted the minimum to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 in the rest of the state by the end of 2016.

But the Senate Republicans balked at the idea, taking their cues from their allies in the business community – despite the fact that raising the minimum wage has consistently polled very high across the state.

In the end, minimum wage, along with a number of other policy proposals included in the budget by the governor, did not make it into the final spending plan.

Last month, Cuomo said he did not believe the Legislature would take up the minimum wage issue during the post-budget session, telling the NY Post editorial board:

“It doesn’t take effect this year. It doesn’t take effect until next year. So, I think there’s going to be a strong feeling, ‘Why don’t we just do it next year.’ But that conversation isn’t closed.”

At the same time, Cuomo said raising the minimum wage remained a top priority for his administration.

As a result of the federal corruption charges levied by US Attorney Preet Bharara against Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos this week, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that very much gets done in Albany before the session’s scheduled end in June.

The prospect has even been raised in the Capitol hallways that the Senate would seek to cut the session short and depart at the end of this month.

By taking the minimum wage matter into his own hands, Cuomo would change the conversation – at least in the short term – turning the focus away from the spate of corruption scandals that has rocked the Capitol, and perhaps even threatens to reach as high as his office, depending on how far Bharara decides to go in his probe into the early shuttering of the Moreland Commission.

The process would work much the same was as the wage board that was convened by Cuomo last year to recommend changes in the minimum wage paid to so-called tipped workers, most notably in the hospitality industry.

This was part of the 2013 deal the governor struck with the Legislature to raise the state’s overall hourly wage, which is currently $8.75, to $9 an hour by the end of this year.

Cuomo tapped three people to serve on the tipped worker wage board – state Business Council President Heather Briccetti; Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel Trade Council; and former Broome County Executive Timothy Grippen. The board held public hearings, took testimony and ultimately issued a report with recommendations to the state labor commissioner.

In January, the board voted 2-1, with Briccetti dissenting, to recommend a 50 percent increase in the cash wage for tipped workers, raising it from $5 to $7.50 an hour. In February, acting Labor Commissioner Mario Musolino accepted that recommendation, among others (all but one) made by the board.

Advocates have been arguing for years that governors – not just Cuomo, but Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson before him – have the power to circumvent the Legislature and raise the minimum wage through a wage board, though that method has heretofore only been used in a very limited fashion.

Governors have repeatedly insisted they don’t have the power to raise the statewide minimum wage through a board, but this effort by Cuomo would be narrowly focused, targeting just a single industry.

Just last month, AG Eric Schneiderman argued in a Daily News OpEd that the process is “clearly lawful…provided the statute’s guidelines and procedures are followed.”

The business community, meanwhile, is already expressing its dismay.

In a statement released yesterday, NYS Business Council Vice President Ken Pokalsky voiced concern that while the governor’s latest effort is “allowed under the Labor Law” it circumvents the Legislature’s “long established role in making wage policy in New York.”

“It also raises concerns about other sectors being subject to non-legislative wage mandates, Pokalsky continued. “In regions of New York that have yet to reclaim jobs lost in the 2009 recession, artificially inflated wages will not promote job creation.”