March 31, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – When Democratic voters go to the polls in New York State on April 19, it could be energized student workers fighting hard for a $15 an hour minimum wage who ultimately help deliver the all-important primary to Senator Bernie Sanders.
“If NYU had a mock election, we would probably elect Bernie Sanders,” NYU sophomore Hannah Fullteron told LaborPress earlier this week.
Student workers at both NYU and Columbia University have now successfully pushed their respective institutes of higher learning to phase in a $15 an hour minimum wage, while scores of other millennials around the state are helping to pressure Albany to establish a statewide minimum wage by April 1.
But in this year’s presidential race, only Sanders advocates a nationwide $15 an hour minimum wage. Rival Hillary Clinton has only voiced support for a $12 an hour federal minimum wage.
That stance alone could be enough to help the Vermont senator and native Brooklynite win a larger share of New York State’s 291 delegates.
Millennials shackled to crushing student loan debt guaranteeing them years of paying off skyrocketing interest rates, as well as threatening the viability of their academic careers, are also backing Sanders for other important reasons.
In addition to proposing a small tax on Wall Street speculation to cover free tuition at public colleges and universities, Sanders is also backing plans to slash staggeringly high interest rates on student loans, prevent the federal government from profiting off of student loans, and giving students the ability to refinance their existing student loans at lower interest rates.
Those policies, if enacted, would have a huge impact on hard-pressed students like 19-year-old Fullterton who, despite a Work-Study job and a phased-in $15 an hour minimum wage on the way, remains unsure about how she’ll make it through her junior and senior years at NYU.
“It makes me feel like there’s only one candidate out there who actually has the interest of people, and the interest of students in particular,” Fullerton says.
Even with the NYU scholarship that brought her out of a less than stellar school district in rural Connecticut, 19-year-old sophomore Moriah Cruz says she’s had to take out “outrageous loans” to facilitate her studies. NYU is still a possibility for her only because next year she’ll begin work as a resident housing assistant and live rent-free as part of her compensation package.
“I never met richer people than I have at this university,” Cruz says. “It shows that if you don’t have that kind of money, you can’t come to this university.”
Millennials like Fullerton and Cruz are on course to be the first generation in America who can expect to be worse off than their parents — and they know it.
Somehow, they persist in chasing the American Dream.
“I think that in some ways millennials must still believe it — that’s why we’re at institutions like NYU,” Fullerton says. “There’s this sort of mythical belief that when you go to this institution, or any kind of prestigious institution, you’re going to self-actualize. You’re going to move to New York City and fulfill your potential. There are all these types of myths we’ll taught our whole lives, and that’s why we get ourselves into numbers like $70,000 in debt.”
On Thursday, March 31, Sanders will hold a 4 p.m. campaign rally at St. Mary’s Church on East 143 Street in the Bronx. The possibility of a Sanders-Clinton debate taking place in Brooklyn ahead of the April 19 New York Democratic Primary is expected to be announced soon.