Burger flippers, airport workers, domestic helpers and other low wage workers rallied outside a midtown McDonald’s to mark International Women’s Day, demanding a $15 minimum wage, while across town, thousands of women took part in a United Nations-sponsored march to call for an end to violence against women.
On a short walk down 51st Street, workers and supporters waved signs reading “stick together for $15,” and children held signs reading “Supersize women’s wages” and “Mommy’s low pay, I’m not loving it.”
“The vast majority of individuals who work in minimum wage jobs are women,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “As we celebrate 50 years since Selma we’re also celebrating that too many women are living in poverty and the feminization is real in this city … and we can do better.”
James and City Comptroller Scott Stringer both said the fast food industry is in good financial shape, and that low wage workers should make $15 an hour if company CEOs are making millions a year.
“I think all of us have the responsibility to make sure that workers have a fair wage, a lot of workers in fast food restaurants are mothers. It’s a community responsibility,” said Tasha Kohl, a teacher who marched with her son.
Shareeka Elliott, an airport worker, brought her two daughters to the rally because she wanted them “exposed to women coming together for a fight that’s very important.”
Judi Polson, a bank project manager and representative from the National Organization of Women in New York City, said that after she finished college, she worked as a fast food worker for a small chain. She remembers a woman whose husband was deployed overseas, and barely broke even after transportation and childcare costs.
“I asked ‘why do you bother?” And she said ‘how else am I going to build a resume?’ That was a long time ago, but obviously things haven’t changed,” Polson said.
More than two years ago, fast food workers in New York City first demanded $15 minimum wage and right to unionize, and the movement has spread to cities across the United States.
The minimum wage in New York City is $8.75.