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Minimum wage rallies continue in the Big Apple

Stephon Johnson | 5/15/2014, 12:30 p.m.
Fast food workers fight for living wages to be put on the menu

The energy in the fight for a higher minimum wage in New York hasn’t died down yet.

Last week, more than 1,000 low-wage workers from around the five boroughs went on a “Faith and Justice” walk to Riverside Church with interfaith clergy members, labor officials and elected officials.

“New York ranks No. 1 in income inequality in the U.S. No one who works 40 hours a week at minimum wage can afford basic living costs,” said the Rev. James A. Forbes Jr., senior minister emeritus of Riverside Church, in a statement. “In a speech to striking sanitation workers in Memphis before he was assassinated in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘It is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis … getting part-time income.’ It was criminal then, and it is still criminal today!”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been a staunch advocate of raising the minimum wage and wants Albany to grant him the power to do so. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito showed support for the walk on behalf of de Blasio and herself.

“Working together with faith leaders in our communities, we’re sending a clear message that it’s time for New York City to set an appropriate local minimum wage,” said Mark-Viverito in a statement. “We can no longer allow so many of our workers to struggle on an unfairly low wage that does not reflect the cost of living in this city.”

Advocates say that New York having the worst income inequality in the country is due to its minimum wage being too low. They’re looking for legislation that would let cities and counties across the state supplement the state minimum wage by raising their local minimum wage.

Michael Carey, a security officer at John F. Kennedy International Airport, attributes the growing effort to increase the minimum wage to the humble beginnings of grassroots workers.

“We’ve fought long and hard for dignity and respect in the workplace,” said Carey in a statement. “Some of the progress we are now seeing can be attributed to the help we’ve received from the civil rights and faith communities.”

Amador Rivas, a member of Make the Road New York, said: “I came to this country hoping for a better future, but I have experienced the exact opposite. I started working for a bodega owner in Washington Heights for $5 an hour. Ten years later, I was only earning $7.25 an hour, which is not nearly enough to survive in this city. New York City must be able to raise its own minimum wage.”