“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.
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, http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-02-09/news/31043383_1_minimum-wage-workers-american-labor-law (2/9/2012).
NYC’s over 5,000 Car Wash workers are fighting back.
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 and an NYS Department of Labor investigation, of 28 car washes in NYC , 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
 WASH New York, The Dirty Business of Cleaning NYC’s Cars, http://www.washnewyork.org/releases/detail.php?id=3 (3/6/2012).
 New York Department of Labor, Labor Department Investigation of New York’s Car Wash Industry Uncovers Nearly $6.6 Million in Unpaid Wages, http://www.labor.ny.gov/pressreleases/2008/August15_2008.htm (8/15/2008).
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.
Read the report from NLIHC here. http://nlihc.org/oor/2012