April 15, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Low-wage workers returned to the streets of New York City on Thursday afternoon to demand a $15 an hour minimum wage for all workers and the right to unionize. The action coincided with similar events around the country and occurred just prior to the hotly anticipated presidential debate between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Brooklyn.
Clinton voiced conflicting statements about raising the federal minimum wage during one of the most raucous segments of the Brooklyn debate, at one point saying, “I want to get something done. And I think setting the goal to get to $12 is the way to go, encouraging others to get to $15.”
Sanders, meanwhile, has been unequivocal in his staunch support of a $15 an hour federal minimum wage. On Thursday, the Brooklyn native also released a statement calling for scrapping the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and strengthening collective bargaining rights.
“This campaign is about building on these successes so that everyone in this country can enjoy the dignity and basic economic security that comes from a living wage, no matter what state they live in,” Sanders said. “That includes ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and persons with disabilities. And not only do workers need a living wage, they also need a seat at the negotiating table. That's why we must also expand collective bargaining rights and pass the Workplace Democracy Act.”
Collective bargaining rights were at the forefront of Thursday’s rally and march kicking off at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue — just down the block from the McDonald’s outlet that sparked the nationwide Fight for $15 movement in 2012.
Airport security officer Michael Carey told the crowd of SEIU members that the Fight for $15 movement needs to “fight to getting a union.”
“We all need that protection behind us,” Carey said.
Governor Cuomo recently signed legislation slowly phasing in a $15 an hour minimum wage in New York City over the next few years. The same measure, however, puts upstate communities on a far more nebulous path towards an eventual $15 an hour minimum wage somewhere far off into the future.
During Thursday night’s Democratic debate, Clinton called that plan “a model for the nation” and said, “That’s what I will do as president.”
Milly Silva, executive vice-president of 1199SEIU, talked about Clinton’s stance on raising the federal hour minimum wage on week one of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” on am970, saying Hillary’s position was pretty “close” to supporting $15 an hour.
The Service Employees International Union has been at the heart of the Fight for $15 movement from the beginning.
On Thursday, the union issued a statement saying that support for the Fight for $15 movement by both Democratic candidates is stronger than ever.
“We're going to continue speaking out and going on strike throughout this election to make sure the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15 all win $15/hour and union rights,” the statement said.