May 20, 2015
By Joe Maniscaclo
New York, NY – The Wage Board that Governor Andrew Cuomo called for two weeks ago to look at the fast food industry, officially convened for the first time on Varick Street this morning amidst calls for a $15/hr. minimum wage – and not a penny less.
“If we truly value workers, the Wage board will implement $15 immediately,” Councilmember I. Daneek Miller [D-27th District] said prior to the start of today’s hearing.
But although the chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor said that there is a “fundamental need for fifteen” in NYC, the city that never sleeps nevertheless finds itself having to play catch up behind five other American cities, most recently Los Angeles, that have already established a $15/hr. minimum wage for poorly paid workers.
“We want to be the working people — not the working poor,” said Chantelle Walker, a 33-year-old Papa John’s food worker who has been at the forefront of New York City’s fight for $15 an hour and a union movement from the start.
Alvin Major, another fast food worker who’s been involved in the more than two-year struggle to eradicate poverty wages here in New York, said that the Wage Board’s focus on the fast food industry will impact low-paid workers statewide.
“Putting a foot forward for fast food workers is a step in the right direction, but don’t feel that we aren’t fighting for everyone,” the father of four said.
Bill Lipton, Working Families Party director, said that winning a $15/hr. minimum wage for fast food workers will “reverberate through other sectors,” while once again establishing New York as the leader in the fight against inequality.
“Fifteen dollars an hour isn't a dream, it’s the new floor,” Lipton said. “L.A. has thrown down the gauntlet to New York – so, New York needs to step up.”
Today’s inaugural Wage Board meeting will soon be followed by similar hearings in Buffalo, Long Island and Albany. Those meeting will also coincide with what labor advocates call an “aggressive campaign” to engage more fast food workers throughout the state.
Paul Sonn, legal co-director at the National Law Employment Project, said that Governor Cuomo was wise to convene a new Wage Board to look at the plight of fast food workers.
“If any industry and city is crying out for a [$15/hr.] minimum wage, it’s fast food in New York City,” said Sonn. “This highly profitable, multi-billion dollar industry can surely afford a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage.”
Equally important to struggling fast food workers fighting for a $15/hr. minimum wage, is the right to organize.
“Fifteen is just a number,” Major said. “You need $15 just to survive at the bottom level in New York City right now.”
Rosa Rivera, another fast food worker attentding today's Wage Board hearing, still only earns $8.75/hr. after 15 years with McDonald’s.
“This city is too expensive,” Rivera said. “Making $8.75 an hour is not enough to save anything. I hope fifteen dollars an hour really happens.”