When Will NYC Take Care Of Its Own Workers?

April 16, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco

Fast food activist Shantel Walker.

Fast food activist Shantel Walker.

Brooklyn, NY – This week, the latest salvo in the battle to establish a $15 minimum wage was launched in conjunction with a new report from Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office outlining the many economic benefits of raising the wage. But is the City of New York taking the lead in the fight?

There are presently a whole set of municipal workers throughout the city, including essential school crossing guards, who earn wages comparable to inadequately-paid fast food workers. 

Local 372 successfully struck a deal with the city earlier this month to bump up the minimum salary for school crossing guards. But the $11.50 an hour the city agreed to pay is well below the $15 an hour practically everyone who works for a living — including Mayor Bill de Blasio — says they need just to scrape by in this town.

On April 14, the comptroller stood on the streets of Brooklyn and pushed hard for the establishment of a $15 an hour minimum wage while drawing a distinction between the plight of struggling fast food workers and low-paid municipal employees. 

“Part of what the city is doing is through the contract negotiations,” Stringer told LaborPress. “And part of that is sitting down with labor. There is a back and forth that always occurs. Here, these [fast food] companies don't negotiate. They don't bring workers in. They don't talk about benefits. They basically say you're minimum wage now and in the future. If you're lucky, they'll throw in an extra quarter for your 10th anniversary. You don't even get a gold watch.”

Just weeks ago, at a meeting with Local 372 school crossing guards, Councilman I. Daneek Miller [D-27th District], chair of the Civil Service & Labor Committee, said it is “ridiculous” to talk about raising the wage anywhere in the city “if it’s not happening at home first.”

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer speaking in Brooklyn.

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer speaking in Brooklyn.

At the same event, Councilman Brad Lander [D-39th District] said, “If we’re out there fighting for fast food workers, if we’re out there getting arrested for car wash workers, and if we’re out there fighting for all the other workers fighting wage theft and discrimination – we should make sure that everybody working for the City of New York is paid a living wage.”

President Shaun D. Francois I, head of Local 372, applauds the comptroller and the city council for highlighting the issue of higher wages, but believes the mayor and the City of New York need to do more.

“The mayor has called for fast food and car wash workers to make $15 an hour and a union,” Francois told LaborPress on Tuesday. “But I was raised to take care of our own, and I believe that the City of New York should take care of its municipal workers.”

Keisha Rice, a crossing guard in Caroll Gardens for the last 16 years, recently told LaborPress that her co-workers — predominately women of color — often spend their work days shuttling between house cleaning gigs and their crossing guard duties. 

“If you feel that we don't need the raise, switch places with us,” Rice said. “We have to work like dogs just to feed our kids.”

Desptie their importance, school crossing guards with Local 372 are some of the lowest paid employees on the city payroll.

“I stand with our elected officials, community groups and all decent New Yorkers in calling on the City of New York to raise our members' wages to start at $15 an hour,” Francois added. “Our members serve 1.2 million children each day and deserve a living wage to afford to live in the city they serve.”

April 15, 2015

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