March 15, 2016
By Clyde Weiss
New York, NY – Efforts by AFSCME affiliates to convince state and local leaders to raise the minimum wage for public service workers is helping to fuel momentum for the national "Fight for $15" campaign. The latest victory: a $15-an-hour minimum wage for 50,000 low-paid New York City workers — including 20,000 workers mostly represented by DC 37 — which will take effect by the end of 2018.
The announcement, by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, was made at DC 37 headquarters in January. DC 37 is a supporter of the nationwide "Fight for 15" movement that was launched to support fast-food workers, who are demanding a living wage and union representation.
“We are here to celebrate a moment in history where working people won a major victory in our city,” said DC 37 Exec. Dir. Henry Garrido.
The victory is more than a political achievement. It will mean real money in the pockets of hardworking families. Among them are school crossing guards represented by Local 372, such as Maria DeLaura, who spoke at the DC 37 news conference.
“I have co-workers who are school crossing guards who live in shelters, and some sleep on the subway because they don’t make enough money to get an apartment, or qualify for public assistance,” DeLaura said. Yet, she added, “ They still get up every day, and get to work on time to make sure your children are crossed safely to their schools.”
New York Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA)/AFSCME Local 1000, whose members include employees of the state, counties, towns, villages, school districts and library systems, also has been a strong advocate for ‘Fight for 15.’
Its advocacy paid off in November when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced plans to raise the minimum wage for approximately 10,000 state workers to $15 an hour by 2021. A similar plan, affecting approximately 28,000 state university workers who also make minimum wage of $9 an hour, also was announced in January.
The movement to raise the minimum wage is stymied in Congress by corporate benefactors who don’t want to see working families have more money in their pockets. It is being championed at the state and local level — thanks to the work of AFSCME and other unions and progressive allies. In California, Oregon and Washington, DC, voters and lawmakers will have their say this year on various proposals that would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
This article was first published in the Winter 2016 edition of AFSCME Works.