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We need better pay for all low-wage workers

Stuart Appelbaum | 5/29/2015, 4:34 p.m.
We are pleased that a state wage board has been called by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to examine the impact of ...
Stuart Appelbaum

We are pleased that a state wage board has been called by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to examine the impact of low pay in the fast-food industry. The move may result in wage increases for fast-food workers in New York.

Over 100,000 people in New York work in fast food, and with 60 percent of them on government assistance, it’s clear that pay in the fast-food sector is astonishingly low. We hope that the board will recommend a higher minimum wage for fast-food workers.

While this wage increase would be a good first step, hundreds of thousands of other workers throughout New York need a raise as well. Retail workers, home health aides, car wash workers, food service workers, and many in other industries—all of these people are in dire need of higher pay. Even when these workers in the Empire State hold full-time jobs, they still don’t earn enough to support themselves and their families. For these New Yorkers, it is a struggle just to survive.

And low wages in these industries will continue to hurt many fast-food workers as well, because most fast-food workers are not full time and must work two or even three jobs to get by, often at other low-wage jobs in industries not being considered by the wage board.

Government action to raise low wages is a powerful move to help working people. We must support and expand efforts to raise the minimum wage for all workers in the state. This increase would put more money in our economy and reduce the amount of public assistance that low-wage workers and their families require to survive.

The discussion about wage rates is an important one, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the best solution to income inequality is still unionization. Workers face many issues on the job besides low wage rates—they need control over scheduling, better benefits and representation in the workplace. What we need are government policies that encourage and protect collective bargaining so that workers have a voice on the job and the ability to address issues beyond just wage rates.