With rain falling, about 100 members of the Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter movement merged in a Harlem rally, calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to raise the minimum wage sooner than promised, and extend the benefits to other low-wage workers.
Fast food workers, who have been rallying in New York City for three years, rejoiced in July when a wage board convened by Cuomo recommended a phase increase for workers in New York City and across the state. The state labor commissioner later approved the raise.
Fast food workers at companies with more than 30 national locations will start getting phased raises starting this December, and receive $15 an hour by 2018 in New York City, and by 2021 in the rest of the state.
“This is an everything movement. When you go to work, you know you have to come out and worry about if we’re going to get killed by the cops, or getting deported … We’ve all got to come to solidarity with one another and take care of everybody’s issues,” said Jorel Ware, a McDonald’s worker and prominent Fight for 15 activist who emceed the rally. “It’s black and brown people who are going through these issues, living in poverty, working a job and not making a living wage. These are all our issues and we might as well put it together.”
Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, spoke at the rally, and told Metro this is the first time she’s been to a fast food workers protest.
“I’m very hopeful for them,” Carr said. “We all deserve a break, to eat and sleep and not only exist.”
“It all fits together, because economic injustice is racial injustice,” said Kelvin Rojas, 23, who is a member of the Black Youth Project 100.
The protesters, who continue to fight for a fast food union and a quicker $15 raise, shut down traffic on 125th Street for a few minutes.
“I don’t blame them,” said Maria Sanchez, who waited to catch the M101 bus, idling in sight behind police tape. “You gotta do what you gotta do.”
There was an early morning fast food rally in Brooklyn, which Mayor Bill de Blasio attended, and an evening action in Foley Square that Cuomo attended.
"We want to make sure the voices of the struggled are amplified," said Luba Cortes, a youth organizer with Make the Road New York. "Them [politicians] coming out and saying the words doesn't mean they're doing the best the can do to pass a $15 minimum wage and what is happening in black lives. Sometimes, coming out is not enough."
Cuomo's office announced Tuesday about 10,000 state workers would be getting their pay bumped up to $15 over the next six years.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon the city should raise the minimum wage for city workers to "provide a pathway to the middle class" and boost the economy.
"It's the right thing to do, and now is the time to do it," Stringer said.