NYC Workers rally to demand raise of minimum wage

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State and federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 since 2009

By Stephen Witt

Low-Wage workers, elected officials, union leaders and clergy held a rally and a march this week in Manhattan to demand higher wages and better benefits.
Currently both the Federal and New York State minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The last time the federal minimum wage was raised was in 2009.

The event was part of a National Day of Action for workers’ rights and fair wages. Similar events took place elsewhere across the country, many of them focusing on raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour. That comes to $15,000 a year — far below the poverty line for a family of four.

“Sometimes I work 12 hours a day, five or six days a week,” said Agustin Perez, a worker at LMC car wash in Queens. “Sometimes we make only $5 or $10 a day in tips.”

Those taking part in the day’s events included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Council Member Letitia James, labor union officials, clergy and members of UnitedNY, New York Communities for Change, Make the Road NY, ALIGN, La Fuente and the Black Institute.

The demonstration came five days after a bombshell report from United NY and ALIGN cited car wash kingpin John Lage, Toys “R” us, Con Edison and some airline contractors and supermarkets – and their millionaire executives – as among the worst employers of low-wage workers in the city.

The report also found sharp increase in the number of low-wage jobs and noted that the purchasing power of New York’s $7.25 minimum wage is 26% lower than it was in 1970; that four in 10 workers in New York City are low-wage workers based on the federal definition and that nearly one-third of workers in New York City earn below $25,000 a year.

“I commend this coalition of hard-working New Yorkers, advocate organizations and concerned citizens for their efforts to organize this National Day of Action for Low-Wage Workers,” Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson said. “The current minimum wage has forced over one million residents of this great state to remain in perpetual poverty, and that is unacceptable.”

The rally comes after the state Assembly passed a bill to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, from $7.25, and to allow annual increases for inflation.

Senate Republicans, however, did not support the legislation, because they believe it would lead to job losses, and have instead lobbied for business tax credits that they say would create jobs.

The two sides were unable to forge a compromise to get a bill to Gov. Cuomo’s desk for a signature.