November 20, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
Queens, NY – New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito [D-8th District] joined Unite Here! Local 100 at JFK International Airport’s Terminal 4 on Tuesday to demand a more sustainable $10.10 minimum wage for hard-pressed food service and retail workers left out of a prior wage agreement.
“They should be included, Speaker Mark-Viveritio told LaborPress. “This is all part of the overall greater struggle that we’re engaging in to raise the minimum wage in the state, which we in the city council support.”
While some airport employees are making modest wage gains, many others are not. This, despite the tens of millions of dollars the nation’s airlines are currently saving each week on lower fuel costs.
Local 100 views the major airlines, which hold leases on airport shops and restaurants, as the key players in the ongoing fight to get to a $10.10 minimum wage.
Despite working for Gate Gourmet for well over 10 years, employee Neria Ramos, and others like her, still make less than $10 an hour.
“It is not possible for us to be living and working for all the years that we have for [only] $9.81 an hour,” Ramos said. “We hope that we can arrive at something better.”
Speaker Mark-Viverito said that it's important for workers and their allies to unite in the face of “forces in this state and this nation that continue to attempt to take us backwards.”
“They don’t want to see regulations, they don’t want to see unions, they don’t want to see a minimum wage," the speaker said. “And we have to organize and galvanize because we’ve got to make sure that does not happen.”
Several other religious leaders and elected officials, including Councilman Rory Lancman [D-24th District], Assemblyman David Weprin [District 24] and State Senator-Elect Leroy Comrie [D-14th District] also joined Speaker Mark-Viverito in support of Local 100 workers.
Assemblyman Victor Pichardo [D-District 86] blasted the continued reliance on Reagan-era “trickle down” economics, and said that it is an “economic imperative” to pay workers a living wage.
“If you want to grow an economy, you grow from the middle out,” the Bronx assemblyman said. “If you put more money in the pockets of those folks that will spend it, and make sure that they have what they need to live and survive, it makes sense for everybody. If you keep wages stagnant, the economy will stay stagnant.”
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, State Senator James Sanders [D-10th District] called those with the power to raise wages a bunch of “turkeys.”
“I think that the owners of these firms need to cut down on the turkey, and give us some dressing,” the senator said.