April 17, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – You are winning. That’s the message fast food workers and others advocates of a $15 an hour minimum wage heard yesterday on the streets of New York City — epicenter of the national movement that began two-and-a-half years ago.
Police cordoned off Central Park West from W. 60th Street to W. 65th Street to accommodate demonstrators pouring into Columbus Circle prior to a march to Times Square that saw organized labor stepping off shoulder-to-shoulder with low-wage earners and elected officials.
“How does it feel to be winning the fight to raise the minimum wage?” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked the noisy rally. “Now is the time to amp it up.”
The state’s chief law enforcement officer, who has thus far recovered some $20 million for cheated low-wage workers, called the growing trend of full-time employees being forced to seek public assistance a “national disgrace.”
Last year, 11 states around the nation raised the minimum wage under increasing pressure from united workers.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer excoriated the current minimum wage of $8.75 an hour, calling it a “starvation wage” and a “dream killer.”
The Comptroller’s Office released a report earlier this week outing the “economic imperative” of establishing a $15 an hour minimum wage in New York City.
“If you raise the wage, it’s going to raise the whole city,” Stringer told demonstrators.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also blasted the current minimum wage, declaring that no New Yorker can survive on $9 an hour.
“We need action from the state and city governments,” Brewer said.
About 3 million working men and women in New York City are reportedly now struggling on less than $15 an hour wages.
The April 15, rally drew strong support from unionized workers across many sectors who enthusiastically turned out in solidarity with their hard-press and unrepresented counterparts throughout the city and the rest of the nation.
“We’re all united trying to lift all boats,” Le Parker Meridian hotel worker Mick Wanamaker told LaborPress. “Having a minimum wage will not only help out the unions and the workers here, but all of New York because people are going to spend that money.”
According to the comptroller’s newly-released report, establishing a $15 an hour minimum wage in New York City would put $10 billion in the pockets of 1.5 million working men and women. The restaurant and entertainment industries alone, could see annual revenues spike $700 million as a result.
“Support for this movement crosses industries and wage levels, because fundamentally, workers understand that they are stronger together,” New York Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez later said in a statement.
New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento issued a statement saying low-wage workers shouldn’t be trapped in poverty and forced to work unpredictable hours under bad working conditions.
“The Fight for 15 is a fight for a living wage, a fight for union representation, a fight for a decent job and a fight for a brighter future,” Cilento said.
Glova Scott, a Walmart employee from Washington, D.C., told LaborPress that the kind of worker solidarity shown Wednesday on the streets of New York City will, indeed, result in a $15 minimum wage for all workers.
“We’re talking about quality of life,” Scott said. “We’re talking about trying to lessen the everyday grind that we face in this society that puts profits over people.”