NY Moves Toward $15 Minimum Wage For Fast Food Workers
Above: Activists cheer after Wednesday’s announcement. Credit: Mary Altaffer for Associated Press.
Near Doubling of Minimum Wage Shows How Unfair Wages Have Been for a Very Long Time
Fight For $15 Continues Across the Nation
The raising of the minimum wage in New York for fast food workers is a hard won victory of workers and their allies. As Huffington Post reported:
“We did it,” Jorel Ware, a member of Fight for $15 and a McDonald’s worker from the Bronx, said at a press conference after the hearing. “The Fight for $15 has shown me what’s possible when workers stick together.”
Of the wage board, Ware added, “I want to thank them for understanding what it’s like to live in poverty.”
Under pressure from progressives, Cuomo ordered the state’s labor commissioner to convene the wage board earlier this year and asked its members to determine an appropriate statewide wage for the fast-food industry.
A press release from the Fight for $15 declared: “When the Board’s three members announced their $15 decision to a packed hearing in Lower Manhattan, workers erupted in cheers, chanting, “We work, we sweat, put $15 in our check.” They spilled out into the streets, kicking off a boisterous rally applauding the governor for convening the Wage Board and calling on him to accept its $15 recommendation.”
The decision for a $15 an hour wage by the Wage Board came two-and-a-half years after workers at McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s walked off their jobs in New York City, sparking a movement for $15 and union rights that has spread to all corners of the state, around the country and across the underpaid service economy. Politicians from both parties, including President Obama, resisted the $15 an hour wage. They told workers it was politically impossible, making this victory even more significant. At the time the hourly wage was $7.25.
With the victory, Governor Andrew Cuomo, long viewed as a pro-business governor who was not a friend of workers, jumped into the victory parade saying:
“This is going to help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, but this is going to do something else. Because when New York acts, the rest of the states follow. This statement today is going to radiate all across the country…If it’s right in New York, it’s right in California, it’s right in Michigan and it’s right in Florida.”
“It is just the beginning…we will not stop until we reach true economic justice and we raise the minimum wage for every worker in every job in this state. Because the New York way is we believe the greatest success…and the greatest feast has the most number of people at the table. That’s what we’re doing today. That’s the crusade we’re on. We’ll make it a reality in New York and they’ll hear us all across this nation.”
The timing of the increase in wages means that in New York City fast-food workers would be paid $15 by 2018. This is the same timeline set in San Francisco. Workers outside of New York City would be paid $15 by 2021, making New York state’s fast-food workers the first in the country to win $15 statewide.
In a press release, the Fight for $15 said “Fast-food workers are changing the politics of the country. On Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The University of California – the third largest employer in the state – announced today it will raise base pay for all direct and contract workers to $15 an hour by 2017.”
The Fight for $15 highlighted the views of workers in response to the decision:
“Our movement is unstoppable,” said LeTonya Wilson, 41, who works at McDonald’s in Richmond, Va. and is paid $8.25 an hour. “Fifteen dollars is sweeping the country and we’re going to build off of this victory in New York to win $15 in Richmond and all across the country. Everyone said we had no chance, but we’ve shown when we stick together, we get results that let us afford the basics like food and rent and lift up our families and communities.”
Alvin Major, of Brooklyn, who supports his four children on $8.75 an hour from KFC, said, “Today’s recommendation shows just how far we’ve come in two short years. When we first went on strike for $15 and union rights two years ago, people thought we had no shot— but we believed that we would win, and now we have. When Governor Cuomo approves the wage board’s recommendation it will be a historic moment in our state, which will be felt across the United States and across industries.”
Jacquie Jordan, of Albany, who is paid $9 an hour at McDonald’s after seven years, said, “What $15 means to me is indescribable – being able to finally move out of a pay by the week motel and into an apartment I can call home, while finally starting to save for the future. The Wage Board did the right thing by recommending a $15 wage – now it’s up to Governor Cuomo to make it a reality. It’s time companies like McDonald’s and Burger King stop paying wages that keep tens of thousands of hard working people on public assistance.”
Lizabeth Bollina, a Las Vegas, Nev. home care worker who is paid $10 an hour, said, “Fast-food workers started this movement for $15 and home care workers are proud to carry the banner, too. We know that when workers stick together, we can win life-changing victories.”
Venetta Strickland, a child care teacher in Raleigh, N.C. who is paid $11.25 an hour, said, “The Fight for $15 is about building a strong future for ourselves. We’re winning in New York because we are standing together. Child care workers and all underpaid workers need $15 so we can afford things like rent and electricity and get the respect we deserve on the job.”