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Vol. 79/No. 34      September 28, 2015

Fight for $15, union drives mark NY Labor Day Parade
Support for the fight for a $15 hourly minimum wage and efforts to unionize unorganized workers marked this year’s New York City Labor Day Parade Sept. 12. The Service Employees International Union Local 1199 contingent, which led the march, contained a sizable and vocal group of home health care aides who earn $10 an hour.

“We’re fighting for the home health aides because we all deserve a decent minimum wage,” Janice Thompson, a nurse and 1199 member, told the Militant.

“Rite Aid drug store workers are in 1199,” Roy Acosta, a local organizer, said. “Now we’re trying to organize Walgreen’s workers and the medical technicians working in the growing number of walk-in medical clinics in the drugstores.” Meanwhile, union members at Rite Aid are fighting company concession demands that would cut the number of workers.

“The 53 workers at Tower Isles [Frozen Foods], a Brooklyn company that makes Jamaican patties, won representation by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 888 four months ago,” local organizer Joseph Bigot told the Militant.

These efforts — along with protests and strikes by workers at Walmart, McDonald’s, those who work for contractors at area airports, and others — are having an effect. Earlier in the week New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with Vice President Joe Biden by his side, announced he is introducing a $15 an hour minimum wage law in the state legislature.

In July the state Fast Food Wage Board approved an incremental increase of fast-food workers’ pay to $15. Cuomo’s new proposal, which would apply to all workers, is also incremental — reaching $15 in 2018 for workers in New York City and three years later in the rest of the state.

Wendy Webb marched with the Women’s Committee in the Laborers Local 79 contingent. Webb joined the construction union more than 20 years ago.

“We noticed that many women get in the apprentice program, but when they get to the jobs they tend to disappear,” Webb said. “So about a year and a half ago we decided to organize within the local to make women visible and win support from the men. It’s not easy when you are by yourself, but if we get together we can make each other stronger.”

Other contingents included Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers employed at Verizon. Their contracts ran out in August. Postal workers fighting U.S. Postal Service’s union-busting cuts and closure of post offices were also present. “Keep ’em open! It’s a community right!” read their placards.

Workers at the City University of New York carried “CUNY contract now!” and “CUNY needs a raise!” signs in the contingents of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 and Professional Staff Congress-American Federation of Teachers, which represents professors and others.

“We haven’t had a contract since 2010,” said Tenesha Spain, a DC 37 member who works at York College in Queens. “The state government is offering a contract with a wage freeze for three years and only a 2 percent increase in the fourth and fifth years.”
Related articles:
Oct. 11 Quebec protest set to demand rail safety
Fight frame-up of rail workers for 2013 disaster
Steelworkers rally against boss cutback demands, ATI lockout
On the Picket Line
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