NEW YORK (TIP): Thousands of demonstrators, including many fast-food workers, protested in New York demanding a minimum wage of $15 an hour to escape poverty in America’s largest city.
Fast-food workers were joined by airport, construction and child care staff, as well as people working in education, in over 230 cities, organizers said, calling it the largest mobilization of underpaid workers in the US. The minimum wage in New York state is$8.75 an hour and due to rise to $9 in 2016.
Between 10,000 and 15,000 took part in the protest, they said.
Pedro Gamboa, 58, is a baggage handler at JFK airport who works 40 hours a week and wakes up at 300 am (local time) to do it – earning USD 10.10 an hour.
“It’s not enough. You have to be a magician to survive on that,” said the Guatemalan-born family man. “Once you pay your bills, there is nothing left in your pockets.”
In New York, a first protest began at around 6:00 am outside a McDonald’s outlet in Brooklyn.
In Manhattan, fast-food workers were joined by students and activists, spreading out on the sidewalk outside another McDonald’s to demand better salaries, an AFP photographer said.
They held up placards proclaiming: “Why poverty,” “Fight for 15” and “Because the rent won’t wait.”
Workers say they are fed up with pay that does not come close to keeping them out of poverty and the threat of retaliation from employers hostile to them joining or forming unions.
On April 1, McDonald’s said that it was raising hourly pay to USD 1 above the local official minimum wage for 90,000 employees in company-owned restaurants, and would offer them paid time off.
The increase, however, does not apply to 660,000 employees working for restaurants owned by franchises, which comprise 90 percent of the 14,000 McDonald’s outlets across the United States.
“Rather than mollifying employees, the paltry pay move is attracting ridicule and inspiring even more workers to join the walkout,” strike organisers said.
There is a federal minimum wage of USD 7.25 but many US states have their own minimum wage.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a report yesterday that even when adjusted for cost of living, New York’s minimum wage is the lowest of any major US city.
Pay of USD 15 an hour would save taxpayers USD 200-USD 500 million a year in food stamps and Medicaid spending, his report said.