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New York’s workers deserve dignity and an immediate raise

Stuart Appelbaum | 3/24/2016, 3:48 p.m.
There is dignity in all honest work and all workers deserve to be treated with respect.
Stuart Appelbaum

There is dignity in all honest work and all workers deserve to be treated with respect. When people go to work each day, they deserve to be able to support themselves and to earn a decent living. That’s what it’s supposed to be about.

When people go to work each day, they should not be condemned to lives of poverty. And yet for far too many workers, that is exactly what is happening. They go to work each day—just like society wants them to—and they are still condemned to lives of poverty, anxiety and stress because New York’s minimum wage is inadequate. It’s wrong, it’s immoral and it has got to change. And the way to make it change is by raising New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

It’s simply a matter of fairness, decency and good economics.

When we join together to fight for $15 an hour we are fighting for more than just a higher wage rate. We are fighting for a better future for all New Yorkers. We are fighting for a growing middle class and more opportunity for all of us. We are fighting for a stronger tax base and a diminished gap between the wealthiest few and working people.

At the RWDSU and at our union’s Retail Action Project, which gives assistance to non-union retail workers, we’ve seen the daily struggles that retail workers in New York face. Too many are bringing home $10 an hour, $9 an hour and sometimes even less. Many of these workers are forced to turn to public assistance. It’s outrageous that any hardworking person should require food stamps to provide dinner for his or her family.

Retail workers represent the largest percentage of New Yorkers who work at minimum wage or slightly above. And these workers desperately need—and deserve—more pay.

But retail workers are not alone.

Car wash workers, home health aides, food service workers and many in other industries all deserve more than the terribly insufficient $9 minimum wage that New York mandates.

Every working human being in New York deserves better than that. Every worker is doing his or her part, contributing to our communities and making profits for their bosses. We all deserve a shot at a decent life. We all deserve a chance to build stronger families and communities and realize our dreams.

That’s why we work.

Our movement is getting stronger. It’s a movement to change the lives of 3 million working people.

The state legislature needs to listen to us, do what is right and help ensure New York’s workers are guaranteed higher pay and a better quality of life.

Together, we can win a higher minimum wage and we can make a difference in the lives of New York’s working families.