February 14, 2013
While the city’s economy has been recuperating from the Great Recession, low-wage workers in the city face enormous difficulties in making ends meet in one of the nation’s most expensive cities. A new report, Workers Rising, reveals policy decisions the next mayoral administration can make to improve conditions and pay for low-wage workers. Read More and Watch Video
Presented at a symposium on low-wage worker organizing at the Murphy Institute, the authors of the report, UnitedNY and The Center for Popular Democracy, write that the city should raise standards by guaranteeing at least five days of paid sick leave. The city should also regulate high-violation industries, establish a Mayor’s Office of Labor Standards to investigate complaints by workers and pass a resolution that’ll allow the city to pass a higher minimum wage than the state.
According to the report, the city’s economy is shedding living wage jobs, but is adding low-wage, service sector jobs such as restaurants (42,000) and retail trade (27,000).
Prince Jackson works as a security officer for the Air Serv Corporation at Kennedy airport and is part of a committee of security officers organizing for better pay and the appropriate equipment to do their jobs that ensures the safety of passengers.
He worked all night, but said it was important for him to be at the event.
“I’m very tired, but I will do anything that I can do to raise the standards for my fellow workers at the airport.”
Alterique Hall is a retail worker who said he’s behind his rent because he’s paid very low wages.
“It’s difficult. Some days I just want to lie down and cry because I’m being paid and treated poorly. We need to fight for higher wages to better our futures,” said Hall.
A car wash worker who worked for seven years at a carwash owned by John Lage in SoHo, owner of multiple carwashes throughout the city, will soon be laid off because Lage is selling the property to a developer. The workers at the SoHo facility voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in November, but Lage said the property was up for sale before the election.
Council Member Gale Brewer welcomed the proposal to create a local office for labor standards.
“All the other cities and states that have paid sick leave have such an office. Right now, the only way to get a complaint on many of these issues is on a complaint-by-complaint basis. There isn’t currently any organization; the state doesn’t have enough staff. You need a local office that will be a partner with the employee and employer to come up with safe standards,” Brewer said.
Also joining Ms. Brewer were two mayoral hopefuls—Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former comptroller and 2009 mayoral candidate, William Thompson. They both said they support the movement to help low-wage workers, but they did not say they would enact the authors’ proposals if elected mayor.