Low-Paid Workers of New York Unite to Fight for Higher Wages

C.S. Muncy
A movement that began in 2012 with 200 fast-food workers protesting in midtown reached an apex on Wednesday, as cities across the globe held rallies to push for higher wages and more benefits for low-income workers.

Since its smallish beginnings, the so-called Fight for $15 has expanded to include not only fast-food workers but also carpenters, construction workers, and home-care aides, among others. On Wednesday, a mishmash of unions and organizations gathered in groups citywide to call for a minimum wage of $15 per hour. It's a fight that is especially pronounced in New York City, where median rental prices have gone up a whopping 75 percent since 2000 — while median incomes have declined. (The minimum wage in New York State is $8.75 an hour.)

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New Report Details Plans for Low-Wage Worker Justice

Categories: Labor, Wage Wars

Jason Lewis/Village Voice
A panel of labor policy experts dicuss the plight of low-wage workers at yesterday's symposium.
When a worker in this city has to endure a three-hour walk to work because his minimum wage salary doesn't allow for him to afford public transportation, that's a problem.

Low-wage workers across the city have stood up in the past year to demand that such insecurity be eradicated and to pressure employers to finally begin to provide them with just compensation for their labor.

Building on the progress generated by these worker-led movements--in industries such as retail, fast-food, airline security and car washing--UnitedNY, the Center for Popular Democracy and other advocacy groups held a symposium and released a report yesterday analyzing the state of the city's low-wage worker movement.

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Cuomo's Push for Minimum Wage Hike is a Good Start, But it's Not Quite Enough, Critics Say

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Low-wage workers and advocates took New York City by storm at the close of last year with mass demonstrations across the city for better wages and work-place conditions.

Thus, one might assume that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's call for a $1.50 minimum wage increase during his annual State of the State address would signal a great victory for those advocating for higher worker wages.

But it turns out that while advocates for wage increases are happy to see the governor put his stamp of approval on a potential wage-hike, many also contend that a $8.75/hour minimum wage still isn't enough for workers and their families to survive.

"Is $8.75 sufficient? Of course not , but it's a huge step in the right direction." James Parrott, chief economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute, tells the Voice. "I think people see that this is the year that this will happened in New York State. This is not going to be the end of it. This is not going to be sufficient."

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