‘We can’t survive on $7.25’

February 20, 2014

New York—Over 500 union and non-union workers, predominantly from the education field and the newly mobilized and militant fast-food workers sector, rallied on Dec. 5 to demand a minimum wage of $15. The fast-food workers demanded as well the right to organize a union without fear of being fired.

The rally was the culmination of a one-day strike by hundreds of fast-food workers around New York and thousands more across the nation. The fast-food workers made their entrance with a marching band and loud chants of “We can’t survive on $7.25”—the current minimum wage in New York.

Retail and grocery store workers were out in force. The teachers union was also well represented, along with contingents from the staff and faculty union at the City University of New York.

One woman I talked to, a retired teacher, said that she was helping organize her rent-stabilized building on the Lower East Side in the face of proposed gentrification. She said people were beginning to realize that, unless they organized themselves, no one else would help them.

Another teacher told me that what they hoped for from de Blasio, the new mayor, was a change in the city’s educational policies. When I asked a fast-food worker from Brooklyn if he had struck, he proudly said yes with a smile.

The only disappointing part of the rally was that, although it had been billed as a rally for all city employees who were working without a contract, the powerful local DC 37 of AFSCME, which represents tens of thousands of city workers, was notably absent. Unless New York’s unions present a solid united front in negotiating with the city, de Blasio will be certain to play off one against the other, exactly as Bloomberg did.

—Labor solidarity activist

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