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Poverty Wages

Bane of the Poor

 Bane the Destroyer menanced midtown and 99%er’s today. Bane’s booming voice boasted about slashed paychecks, gutted workforces, busted unions and jobs killed by the thousands.

“I’m a working mother of three, $8 an hour just isn’t going to work!” Shantees Jones preached before a crowd of onlookers. Jones, a former employee of Bain-owned Burlington Coat Factory, was recently fired from her low-wage part-time job for standing up for her rights after being denied health benefits. Felipe Idrovo, employed part-time at two cleaning companies in order to support himself and his brain-damaged brother, recounts the physical toil it takes just to barely get by. “[Bain Capital] doesn’t care about jobs, they don’t care about people like me. They’re motivated 100% by profit.”

Bain Capital, founded by Mitt Romney, is renowned for putting thousands out of work, withholding benefits, and offering the lowest of low wages while earning its investors millions. “Living wages, not Romney wages!” chanted members of UnitedNY, New York Communities For Change, Make The RoadNY and La Fuente on behalf of the millions of working class citizens don’t earn enough income to survive.


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A Fair Day’s Pay For an Honest Day’s Work

“We are here because New York’s workers need and deserve more,” said Cara Noel of UnitedNY. “We have to stand up for what’s right, and what’s right is an honest and reasonable day’s pay, for an honest day’s work.”

On Tuesday Senator Gillibrand joined with, State Senator Peralta, UnitedNY, MaketheRoadNY, RWDSU and members of the community in calling for the Fair Minimum Wage Act. The bill would raise the federal standard of living by raising the minimum wage from $7.25/hr to $9.80/hr, over the next three years. The minimum wage would be indexed to inflation, to make sure that wages continue to increase at a steady rate.

“The discrepancy of a minimum wage poised at $7.25 an hour and the actual living wage for survival in New York City at $12.75 an hour is hard to ignore,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. D-NY. “We are advocating the vulnerable.”

Senator Jose Peralta, D-Queens, advocated on behalf of tipped workers, who receive a mere $2.13 an hour, a number that has gone unchanged in the past 21 years. He argued in favor of higher wages for small local businesses, many of which are struggling in this very Queens neighborhood. But should the Fair Minimum Wage Act be passed, Peralta will continue to push for more. “Wages should be at $10.55 due to inflation by now,” he stated.

The cost of such a low minimum wage is clear, Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road NY, recalled an all-too-familiar story of a woman named Maria, an employee at John F. Kennedy International Airport, unable to get by at $8 an hour. Despite working on her feet in a temperature-controlled environment at a frigid 35 degrees for up to 10 hours a day, up to 60 hours per week, Maria still couldn’t afford to keep her family intact, and the only way to ensure that her children’s basic needs were met was to send them to live with family in her native Dominican Republic as she continued to work here in NYC.

Sign the Petition and let Senator Gillibrand know that you support raising the Minimum Wage!

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The Economic Low Road: Low-Wage Workers

Today, UnitedNY released a new report on the low-wage economy of New York City. The report highlights economic inequality, the plight of low-wage workers and shames five of the city’s worst low-wage employers and their millionaire CEO’s: Car Wash Kingpin John Lage and his Lage Mgmt. Corp., AirServ and its CEO Frank Argenbright, Toys “R” Us  and its CEO Gerald Storch, Golden Farm  Supermarket in Brooklyn and its owner Sonny Kim, and ConEdison and its CEO Kevin Burke.

Download the Report Here

Some of the statics in the report are shocking: Four in ten households in New York City are forced to subsist on low-wages and over one-quarter of workers in New York City earn below $25,000 per year. But the report highlights what many of us have long-known: minimum wage is not enough to support a family in NYC. Across the city, families are forced to choose between rent, food, and healthcare. A family making minimum wage is forced to subsist below the federal poverty line. It is immoral for a city like NYC to deny a living wage to its working families.

Join us July 24th for the National Day of Action for Low Wage Workers and support dignity and respect for all workers.

The report exposed the discrepancies of the workers and the CEO’s lifestyles. While CEO’s and company owners are handsomely paid and live in luxury,  its workers are forced to subsist on minimum wage, often with no overtime, healthcare, paid sick days, and in poor working conditions.

Here’s a quick run down of our City’s “Bad Employers”

Lage Mgmt. Corp.

The Company: Lage and his companies are linked to some21 car washes in NYC

The CEO: John Lage Owns homes in Queens and Westchester worth millions

The Workers: Have suffered wage theft, are exposed to hazardous chemicals, often lack meal breaks


Air Serv

The Company: Provides passenger services like cabin cleaning and security for airlines with which they contract

The CEO: Frank Argenbright: Worth $300 million, owns $6.8 million home in Sea Island, GA

The Workers: Throughout the industry, contracted passenger service workers typically make $8 per hour, lack health insurance and paid sick leave


Toys “R” Us

The Company: Owned by private equity firms including Bain Capital. Had $14 billion in revenue in 2011

The CEO: Gerald Storch: Awarded $7.9 million in total compensation in 2011, lives in 11,000 square foot home he bought for $3.4 million

The Workers: Survey shows wages at less than $10 per hour with some as low as

$8.50; history of being denied vacation pay owed them


Golden Farm

The Company: Supermarket in Kensington, Brooklyn

The CEO: Sonny Kim: Sold Bergen County, NJ home for $1.1 million

The Workers: Some allegedly were paid as little as $4.86 per hour, seeking union representation to seek fair wages, sick time, other benefits


Con Edison

The Company: Hires cleaning and security contractors that pay wages that keep workers impoverished

The CEO: Kevin Burke: Awarded nearly $11 million in total compensation in 2011 (equivalent to

$5,272 per hour), owns at least 3 homes in New York and Florida

The Workers: Contracted cleaners and security officers make as little as $8 per hour;  their pay and benefits are exempted from prevailing wage laws


Workers are standing up for their right and demanding better wages, and  New Yorkers are standing with them.  Starting 11AM and until 12:30 TODAY, we’re flooding twitter with tweets calling out these bad employers

Join the Twitter Rally and make your voice heard!



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Justice Starts with You

This Tuesday, July 24th, workers from across the city are coming together for a Day of Action for Low Wage Workers.

The people who work in our local supermarkets – People we see daily when we buy our groceries  - will be among those standing up for respect and dignity for all our city’s workers. These workers are one of the most underpaid workers in the city.

In one grocery store in Brooklyn, at least ten workers alleged to have worked 72-hour work weeks routinely, yet have been paid as little as $4.86 per hour with no overtime.[i] Nicandro Martinez-Rodriguez, who has worked in the produce department for 12 years, made $350 a week for 12 hour days, 6 days a week. i

That’s below the federally required minimum wage! The manager’s excuse? According to the New York Daily News, the manger stated, “The Spanish guys don’t know English writing and reading. How would they know American labor law?” .[i]

Our most vulnerable workers are being exploited and it’s time to fight back! Join us and fight for dignity and respect for all our workers.

It’s time to taking back New York for working families and ensure that ALL workers are able to earn a living wage to support their families. But it starts with YOU standing up.

When the workers at one supermarket in Brooklyn organized themselves and the neighborhood, the owner started paying minimum wage.[i] Together the community and the workers won, and now they are fighting for justice and demanding back wages.

Roberto Ramirez, , who has worked at a grocery store in Brooklyn for 6 years, said “They treated us like slaves.” But after seeing how the community supported them by signing petitions, going door knocking and boycotting the store, he was motivated to fight for more.[i]

[i] Erin Durkin, Suit says workers at Brooklyn grocery made just $4 an hour, New York Daily News, (2/9/2012).

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Si se Puede! For Workers’ Rights

“Today we are celebrating the low wage workers who are stepping out of the shadows and organizing for their right” began Ana Maria Archilla from Make the Road New York.

It was a sweltering morning at City Hall, but the heat did not deter the enthusiasm and spirit of those gathered this morning for a Latino Leaders Press Conference to announce the July 24th Low Wage Workers Day of Action.

Latino Leaders from across NYC, including faith leaders, community leaders, and elected officials, gathered to reaffirm their commitment to fighting for justice for our communities.

The problem of low wages is an issue of human rights for our communities. As Rep Nydia Velasquez stated “it is immoral for a city like NYC to deny a living wage to its workers.”  Our fight is one for dignity and respect. A Car Wash Worker shared his daily hard ships-“I get my tips stolen, work 12 hour shifts, and only make $5.50 an hour”

Pastor Almonde of Brooklyn recounted how “Every day I see our community struggling to afford milk and bread to feed their families and to pay their rent. As a Latino pastor – I want to raise the voice of our workers.”

That voice is being raised. A reoccurring theme was that out of such exploitation, our workers are coming together, finding their voice, joining others, and becoming empowered to fight for the rights of their communities.

As the car wash worker continued “we work hard and we are tired, but we must organize for a fair wage.” “I am tired of not having a voice at my job – that is why I am joining workers across the city and fighting for our rights and dignity”.

Milagros, who worked for a contracor for Con Edison, was fired without notice and “just told to go home.” And that is why, she said, she is “marching July 24th – it is necessary for us to join our strength together”.

Join Milagros and thousands of others on July 24

A rallying cry for the July 24th Day of Action then emerged, when something remarkable is happening, as Hector from Make the Road NY said, “workers from across the city and from different occupations are coming together to demand rights together”

Hector continued, “the time has come for us to occupy the workplace. For low wage workers to say enough is enough. We must rise and defend our right to dignity. Workers’ rights, workers’ rights – is what we need to fight for.”

Elected officials highlighted how raising the minimum wage will increase economic prosperity. Rep Nydia Velasquez summed it up:  “the best way to tackle poverty in our city is to give respect and dignity to workers who are underpaid.”

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera emphasized, “the best economic stimulus for the state is to raise the minimum wage”. Raising the minimum wage will increase demand in the economy by increasing the purchasing power of our community.  He announced his state Bill to raise minimum wage in NY to $8.50.

Join us in the fight to ensure that this Bill passes. Stand up for dignity and respect for all workers at our July 24th Day of Action

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NYC’s over 5,000 Car Wash workers are fighting back

NYC’s over 5,000 Car Wash workers are fighting back.

Join them

What’s it like to work at a Car Wash in NYC? Based on interviews with 89 workers at 29 different facilities by WASH New York[1]  and an NYS Department of Labor investigation, of 28 car washes in NYC[2] , these workers are some of the most underpaid workers in the city – often working in very poor working conditions. This is the picture we get:

Long hours: Fifty-three percent of workers interviewed work between 61 and 80 hours a week with some working as many as 105 hours :1

Low pay: only 25% of those interviewed received any overtime pay. 66% of the workers interviewed had, at times, been paid below minimum wage. 1

Hazardous working conditions: Despite constant exposure to hazardous chemicals, unguarded machinery, and electrical outlets close to wet surfaces – only 23% of the workers interviewed receive any protective equipment from their employers.1 Imagine working a 12-hour shift, constantly exposed to cleaning chemicals – with no basic items such as gloves, masks or smocks.

Forget about lunch breaks: 40% of the workers interviewed get 15 minutes or less for their lunch break; 41% get no other breaks. 1 And 25% of employers failed to provide required meal breaks 2

And at the end of day, managers who steal your hard-earned tips: 39% of City Car Washes researched had managers that improperly took a portion of tips. 2

As David de la Cruz Pérez, a worker at Sutphin Boulevard Car Wash summed up, “Washing cars, the boss makes us work long hours, from 7 in the morning until 7 o’clock at night, for $5.50 an hour plus tips. They yell at us, they disrespect us, and they treat us as if we were not even human beings” 1

The treatment of our city’s car wash workers is abusive and unacceptable. It’s time for us to end such unjust practices. It’s time for workers to band together and demand respect in our work places. It is time to tell our elected officials that New York needs a raise! That’s why we are fighting for better jobs, better wages and the rights of all workers!

Join our Day of Action and support dignity and respect for ALL of NYC’s workers on July 24th.

July 24 will be the launch of a workers movement in NYC and beyond. Taking back New York for working families starts with YOU speaking out. Join us – make your voice heard.

RSPV for July 24th Workers Day of Action here

[1] WASH New York, The Dirty Business of Cleaning NYC’s Cars, (3/6/2012).

[2] New York Department of Labor, Labor Department Investigation of New York’s Car Wash Industry Uncovers Nearly $6.6 Million in Unpaid Wages, (8/15/2008).

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July 24th – “Workers Rising Day of Action”

Faith Leaders, Community Groups, Labor, and members of the Occupy Wall St movement are mobilizing in support of workers across New York and  gearing up for a July 24th, “Workers Rising Day of Action.”

Across New York, our livelihoods are under attack. After years of massive layoffs and high rates of unemployment, wages and benefits are being cut.

We are working longer hours without overtime pay, health insurance or any retirement benefits.

Full-time work shouldn’t keep you in poverty. It’s time for workers to band together and demand respect in our work places. It is time to tell our elected officials that New York needs a raise. It’s time for broader prosperity across the country.

Fight for better jobs, better wages and the rights of all workers!

July 24 will be the launch of a workers movement in NYC and beyond.  Folks from around the state will be joining us at the Day of Action in NYC.

JOIN US!   RSVP on Facebook


5:o0PM      SPEAKOUT, MASS DIRECT ACTIONS & WORKER-LED TOURS OF LOW-WAGE WORK SITES  -  Union Square Park 14th Street & Broadway


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Workers Rising

Fight for better jobs, better wages and the rights of all workers!

Across New York, our livelihoods are under attack. After years of massive layoffs and high rates of unemployment, wages and benefits are being cut from what used to be middle class jobs. On top of that, workers are working longer hours without overtime pay, health insurance or any retirement benefits.

Meanwhile minimum wage jobs are the fastest growing sector in the state growing ten-fold over the past five years.

A minimum wage earner employed full time makes just of $15,000/ year. That’s hardly enough to get by in New York. And many low-wage workers have tips and wages stolen by employers, forcing them to survive on even less.

Full-time work shouldn’t keep you in poverty. It’s time for workers to band together and demand respect in our work places. It is time to tell our elected officials that New York needs a raise. It’s time for broader prosperity across the country.

March with is July24th at 4PM. Herald Square * Broadway & 32 Street * or meet the march in Union Square at 6:30PM



RSVP on Facebook Here

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Housing is just out of reach

Can you afford to live in NYC?

For too many workers, a 2 bedroom is not affordable. A report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that you would need to work 136 hours at Minimum wage to be able to afford an apartment for your family in NYC.

To be able to afford a 2 bedroom and keep to a 40 hour workweek you’d need to make at the minimum $24. 68/hr. Currently, minimum wage is $7.25. On that amount, you would have to work 136 hours a week to afford a two bedroom apartment in the state of New York, impossible to do with only 168 hours in a week total. Minimum wage is not a living wage when you can’t live off of it.

Join UnitedNY and sigh the petition calling for a high minimum wage!


Read the report from NLIHC here.

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The 1% doing great. The rest of us? Not so much

“Corporate profits are now at an all-time high, while wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low, and fewer Americans are employed than at any time in the previous three decades.”* (Read more at Alternet). Corporations continue to enrich the 1% by siphoning off the profits of their hard workers, laying off others, and leaving crummy low-wage jobs for everyone else.

Our economy needs more money in the hands of consumers, not more tax cuts for the rich. The 1% Economics playbook just doesn’t work for the rest of us

Working people should be able to live and support their families off of their wages. We need to tell our elected officials that the 99% need a raise. Our elected officials need to hear from us and know that we will not stand by an economy that only works for the richest 1%. Take action and help support the fight for livable wages.

Sign our petition and join us in calling on them to make raising the minimum wage their top priority.



*Jaffe, Sarah “Corporate Profits at All-Time High; Wages at All-Time Low: Can We Call it Class War Yet?”

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