This Tuesday, thousands of low-wage workers, advocates, union leaders and elected officials took to the state capital to rally for a $15 minimum wage for all employees. With New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo looking to phase in a raise to the minimum wage for New York City by 2018 and New York State overall by mid-2021, workers want something a little more immediate and think that it can be done.
“To me, $15 is not a lot of money when you really think about it,” said Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union member Suhaiyia Mixon in a statement. “For a lot of people, making $15 at 40 hours a week, they’ll just be getting by.”
“Senate Republicans need to stop playing politics with my family’s future and agree to a $15 minimum wage in the upcoming budget,” added Erika Peterson, an employee at a Wendy’s in Rochester. “Fifteen dollars for fast food workers was a great start, but our family members and neighbors are home health care aides and cashiers and security guards–and all of us are struggling each day just to keep our heads above water.
Our electricity bills can’t wait, our landlords can’t wait for the rent, our kid’s birthdays can’t wait— and we won’t wait for lawmakers to take our lives seriously,” continued Peterson. “It’s time to start on the path to a $15 minimum wage for all New Yorkers. We will settle for nothing less.”
Elected officials are listening to what workers have to say. After two years, the Fight for $15 movement has made its way around the country and the world. Locally, Assembly Member Michael Blake released a statement showing his support for the workers and the rally that took place this week.
“As a son of labor where my father was a proud 1199SEIU member for more than 26 years, I commend Speaker Heastie, Governor Cuomo and 1199SEIU President George Gresham for their leadership in rallying thousands of people today to demand that we #Fightfor15 and raise the minimum wage,” said Blake in a statement. “No longer should people come home from a 40-hour work week and worry about how they are going to pay the bills and feed their family. This wage increase would provide a great deal of help to people in the Bronx, particularly my constituents in the 79th District.
“Higher wages will bring us one step closer to closing the income inequality gap,” Blake continued. “Better wages mean more support to our children, communities, and health.”
Since the Fight for $15 began, workers and activists have pointed out that many workers have to supplement their meager wages with public assistance and food stamps to maintain a basic sense of being for them and their families. According to the organization Raise The Wage NY, 95 percent of New Yorkers who make less and $15 an hour are 20 years or older, 66 percent of them work full-time and 33 percent have children.
“Our fight is a fight for dignity,” said Jermiel Mitchell, a security worker in the Bronx. “No one who works full time should have to live in poverty—the $15 wage is about making sure all workers in New York live in dignity, not in poverty.”