May 15, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – A minimum wage McDonald’s worker from Brooklyn is inviting Governor Andrew Cuomo to switch paychecks with him, if for only a day, so that the wealthy chief executive in Albany can get a sense of what it’s really like struggling in New York City on $8 an hour.
“I would like to ask the governor if for one day he would like to get my paycheck, and he would give me his paycheck, so he can see how I’m living,” Pierre Metivier told told LaborPress this week.
The 25-year-old Haitian emigre, issued the invitation outside City Hall on Wednesday morning, May 14, after voicing support for a New York City Council resolution backing passage of statewide legislation that – if enacted – would finally allow the city to set its own minimum wage.
“I don’t think that the governor understands what life is like for people who have to live on the minimum wage,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm [D-25th District], co-sponsor of City Council Resolution 189, along with Councilman I. Daneek Miller [D-27th District]. “[Similar bills have] worked well in other states. So, I don’t know why it’s too chaotic. We have examples of where it’s worked well.”
Despite increasing pressure to change course, Cuomo opposes the measure – known as the RaiseUpNY bill (S6516/A9036), on grounds that it would, indeed, be too chaotic, and pit different municipalities around the state against each other.
“We know what we need here in the city,” Councilman Miller said. “All of the economists have spoken on [raising the minimum wage], and testified that New York City can sustain it. We have to have it.”
Like Metivier, Cesar Suarez, is struggling mightily to make it in New York City. The Mexican emigre came to this country 10 years ago, but still only makes the minimum wage working as a bus boy – and is forced to live in a two-bedroom apartment with three other roommates.
“As full-time workers, we cant’ afford our own places to live,” said Suarez. “When I arrived in this country, I thought there were better conditions for workers. But this has not been my experience.”
The overwhelming passage of Resolution 189 (44-4), conincides with a multi-city, multi-national fast food workers strike on May 15. Like Metivier and Suarez, 90 percent of all fast food workers in NYC are people of color struggling to make it on poverty wages.
“There is no reason we should not be raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, or wage levels that are adequately appropriate in New York City,” said Jonathan Westin, organizing director, New York Communities for Change. “New York City needs this authority. Albany needs to give this authority. They have the power to raise fast food workers’ wages to $15 an hour. But they choose not to do it.”
Working Families Party Legislative Director Austin Shafran, blasted the state, saying that everybody from “the pope to the president" knows that the only way to lift families out of poverty is by raising the minimum wage.
“Unfortunately, we live in a state that leads the nation in inequality, and yet fails to follow the lead of many other states that have allowed its cities and counties to raise wages on their own,” Shafran said.
Pointing to the staggering statistic that puts almost half of all New Yorkers at, or near the poverty line – Councilman Corey Johnson [D-3rd District], lamented that working 40 hours a week no longer means workers are able to sustain themselves or thier families – and that New York City should have to power to raise the minimum wage autonomously.
“The specious argument against it have fallen flat and are untrue,” The Manhattan councilman said. “It’s time to lift New Yorkers out of poverty.”
To help make that happen, Metivier said that come Thursday, May 15, he would be joining his fast food brothers and sisters on strike.
“We will be fighting for $15 an hour, and the right to form a union,” he vowed.