September 28, 2016
By Tara Jessup
New York, NY — Thousands of workers, from the New York region and beyond, protested outside the first presidential debate at Hofstra University Monday evening demanding $15 and union rights.
New York fast-food workers in the Fight for $15, from Albany to Long Island to New York City, walked off their jobs in advance of the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The New York strikers were joined by fast-food workers from Boston and Philadelphia.
Monday’s protest came as workers in the Fight for $15 have helped drive a discussion throughout the election season about the need to raise pay. Buzzfeed called workers in the Fight for $15 “a powerful new voting bloc,” and the Associated Press wrote that fast-food workers were flexing “increasingly potent political muscle.” The New York Times and USA both warned candidates who ignore the growing movement that they do so “at their own peril.” And the Fight for $15 was recently credited as one of the reasons median income jumped up last year by the largest percentage since at least the 1960s.
“When I first went on strike nearly four years ago in New York, everyone thought we were crazy -- $15/hour was never going to happen,” said Alvin Major, a Kentucky Fried Chicken worker from New York City who is paid $10.50/hour. “But we kept walking off the job and raising our voices in the streets, and politicians finally responded to us. Now we won $15/hour in New York, California and cities across the country because governors, mayors, city council members, and others realized we’re not going to stop until all workers win pay that allows us to support our families.”
Earlier this year New York elected leaders responded to workers’ demands for $15/hour by raising pay for nearly 3 million people to $15, but workers across the Empire State are still fighting for the right to form a union without fear of retaliation. And while workers in New York, California and cities like Seattle and Washington, DC are on their way to big pay raises, there are still 64 million people living in America who are not paid enough to make rent or put food on the table.
“When New York won $15/hour, I realized that we can do it in Philadelphia and all across the country,” said Alicia Hamiel, a McDonald’s worker from Philadelphia who is paid $7.75/hour. “We need to bring this change to Philly, Kansas City, Houston, Boston, Phoenix, Miami, and every city in between, because no one who works hard should have to ask extended family for rent money, or rely on government assistance for food.”