Workers rally for $15 minimum wage at event in Lower Manhattan - Metro US

Workers rally for $15 minimum wage at event in Lower Manhattan

Dozens of airport, taxi and fast food workers rallied in Lower Manhattan early Tuesday morning in support of a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Part of a “National Day of Action” that includes similar protests across the country, the event at Zuccotti Park was coordinated by the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ.

The service workers union has been an outspoken advocate for a $15 minimum wage over the past four years.

Tuesday’s protest, which drew blaring car horns from supportive passing motorists, was one of more than 300 rallies across the country, including 20 at airports, according to organizers.

In New York, the protesters included fast food workers, Uber and taxi drivers, messengers and airport employees, all demanding higher wages. The airport and fast food workers staged day-long strikes as part of their protest efforts.

Members of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a union founded in 1998, also helped organize the morning rally. Some passing yellow cabs had signs on their windows, reading, “We won’t back down,” and protesters held signs that said, “We shall not be moved.”

Inder Parmar, an Uber driver for three years, said he went to the rally to voice his displeasure with the company. Uber has increased the commission it charges drivers, he said, reducing his income significantly. “We used to make $3 a mile and they used to take 10 percent commission,” Parmar said. “Now, we make $1.75 per mile and they take 25 percent commission.” With two children in college, Parmar said he now must work seven days a week to help support his family, adding he has “a hard time making ends meet.”

The participants called for higher pay for service workers at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, many who earn $10.10 an hour. That compares to workers at New York’s John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, who are set to earn $15 an hour by 2018, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law this year raising statewide hourly wages over a graduated period.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar measure, and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which operates all three airports, deadlocked on a pay increase in September.

Hector Figueroa, president of Local 32BJ, called it “absolutely important to do it today. We saw the outcome of the [presidential] election reflected, on both sies, a lot of anxiety of working people, and we need to bring workers hope,” he said. The union represents 160,000 workers across 11 states, half of them in New York City.

After their 6 a.m. protest in Zuccotti Park — staging ground for the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 — the protesters walked across the street to a McDonald’s on the corner of Liberty Street and Broadway, where striking fast food workers rallied against what they called “unfair labor practices.”

Many of the protesters also went to Newark Airport, where they staged a similar rally and march. Airport workers also cited ground-handling and terminal services contractorPrimeFlight, which operates at Newark airport, saying the company should raise wages and provide employee benefits.

The Nashville, Tenn., company did not immediately respond to an inquiry. Representatives from McDonald’s and Uber also did not immediately reply.

Alexi Friedman contributed to this report.

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