December 9, 2013

Union members and low-wage workers converge at Foley Square
Union members and low-wage workers converge at Foley Square

By Marc Bussanich

New York, NY—After a wave of fast food strikes swept through New York and across the country starting at 6:00 am on Thursday, fast food, airport and other low-wage workers converged at Foley Square on Thursday evening to announce New Day New York. 

Just as the speakers on stage were about to talk to the thousands that gathered at Foley Square, Rabbi Michael Fienberg notified the crowd of Nelson Mandela’s passing and asked for 30 seconds of silence.

“I think in the profound spirit of struggle and beauty that was Nelson Mandela’s life and that is all of your struggle together we can say Nelson Mandela, presente!” said Fienberg.

Numerous labor leaders and low-wage workers followed Rabbi Fienberg to speak. Shareeka Elliot, who works at JFK Airport making sure the terminals are clean and spotless, said she only earned $12,000 last year and has to rely on public assistance to help support her family.

“I’m here to fight for living wages for airport workers. I didn’t think we would make it this far, so I’m happy to see all of your faces tonight,” said Elliot.

Public Advocate-elect Letitia James stirred the crowd by saying that New York City, post-election, is now moving in a more progressive direction.

“Together, we will move forces to ensure that all New Yorkers can survive in New York City,” said James.

Earlier in the day, James attended a press conference along with 1199SEIU’s President George Gresham and NYSNA’s Executive Director Jill Furillo outside New York Presbyterian Hospital to denounce the hospital’s plans to build a $900 million Ambulatory Care Center thanks in part to a large gift by David Koch, owner of Koch Industries with his brother Charles and financier of different groups that promote free market principles.

James warned against the Koch brothers taking over a public asset here in New York City.

“Right-wing, anti-union profiteers like David Koch should not be meddling with healthcare in New York City,” said James.

Matt Canfield is a PhD candidate at New York University and a member of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/United Auto Workers, which just won a critical victory after eight years of trying to win a union contract for graduate employees working at NYU. 

According to Canfield, the university agreed that it would remain neutral as 1,200 employees vote in an election next week for union representation. He said should they win, the new contract would have big benefits for the graduate employees.

“It’s going to make a big difference in the everyday lives of people and open up the university so it could be reflective of the city’s diversity,” said Canfield.

Follow Marc Bussanich on Twitter 


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