Hundreds in NYC demand better wages, conditions for low-wage workers

rally photo

NEW YORK - Several thousand marched from 34 Street and Broadway to Times Square to rally for living wages here and around the country.

Community groups - including Make the Road New York and New Communities for Change - clergy, SEIU 32BJ, Central Labor Council unions and local elected representative and others came out for the rally.

There was a large presence of Carpenters and Building Trades workers supporting the low wageworkers who made up the majority of the rally. A group of carpenters came from Philadelphia to join their brothers and sisters in New York. Low-wage immigrant workers, emboldened by the solidarity, came as well. This multiracial, multigenerational force came to continue the fight for respect and justice at the work place.

Karen Castro, a carpenter with Local 45, said, "We are here tonight to support prevailing wages, better services, for middle class above millionaires. It just seems like the corporations are making all the money and they are trying to take more from us ... it's a matter of putting ourselves out there and letting them know we deserve a living wage."

"My son is a fast food worker. I'm out here," said Yolanda Matthews, who works with fast food workers of IHOP, McDonalds, Burger King and others. She is "fighting for them to get unionized so they can get a bigger pay than $7.25 because $7.25 is not a living wage. It can't pay your doctor bills; it can't pay your rent. So, that's why I'm out here."

Black, Latino and white workers from all walks of the working-class life are saying to the corporations that it is a social and moral obligation to pay a living wage. And they say they will achieve this through collective solidarity with communities, labor and elected representatives.

Curtis Alexander, of Carpenters Union local 926, said, "I'm here to stand up for what I have and also for people who deserve the things I have; you know what I mean. Better wages, better  benefits for everybody. I use to make minimum wage and now that I'm making better, I'm standing up for those who are not making it."

Most fast food workers are making minimum wage, but need to make at least $14 or $15 dollars an hour, which would put a single person above the poverty line. But the millions of workers in fast food, who have children, cannot provide for a family on $29,000 yearly.

Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President, said, "Let's tonight talk about the money. If you pay poverty wages then you create poverty. If you pay poverty wages, then people can't raise the next generation of New Yorkers. If you pay poverty wages, eventually there is going to be a union and a movement to make fundamental political change in the city of New York. That's what we are doing tonight."

Amber, a fast food worker, said, "I'm here to support all the fast food workers. We are fighting for a $15 wage. I work on 42 and Madison. I've been there for one year and three months and you know I'm here for the change."

Photo: Gabe Falsetta/PW

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