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by Dorothy Callaci | published July 25, 2012
Miller Photography UFT members joined more than 1,000 other union members, as well as political, community and religious leaders at a rally at Union Square on July 24 calling for an increase of the minimum wage as part of a statewide Day of Action.
One by one, restaurant, laundry and supermarket workers, health aides, retail workers, taxi drivers and domestic-care workers told stories of their unfair economic treatment to ralliers. And even for those who spoke no Spanish, words like “respeto” and “dignidad” were clearly understood.
Among those who spoke was Adan Nicholas Flores, who works at a Queens car wash for $5.50 an hour. Like many of the 600,000 exploited workers in the state, Flores works 60 to 70 hours a week with no overtime and is required to sign a paper stating that he earns $20 a day in tips to make it appear that the employer is meeting the state’s $7.25 minimum-wage law.
Prince Jackson described his working conditions at JFK International Airport as “a plantation out there.”
Modesto Vidal Sanchez, a worker in the produce department of an Associated supermarket, told of being fired three days ago for trying to organize his fellow workers.
But Tammie Miller, chapter chair of the UFT Family Child Care Providers, reassured the crowd, “We are stronger than the corporation bullies.”
Although the state Assembly passed a bill in May to raise the minimum wage to $8.50, the Republican-controlled state Senate refused to bring it to a vote and Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared that any hike is “not in the realm of possibility.”
The minimum wage was upped in 2009 to the present $7.25 — the federal standard — from $7.15.
Ralliers began at a press conference in Greeley Square, at 34th and Broadway, before marching to join 1,000 others in Union Square. They then carried their message to Con Edison headquarters in solidarity with the 8,500 locked-out workers and to a Manhattan car wash at the end of the day.
Pledging the support of the city’s unions, Hector Figueroa, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, called for “real wages” that will lift low-wage workers out of poverty and descried the profits that employers and corporations make from the growing workforce of “invisible, overworked and underpaid workers.”
Clergy from all faiths cast the story of the struggle for decent wages and working conditions as a moral as well as an economic one.
New York State United Teachers Vice President Lee Cutler urged workers and their families to put pressure on the state Legislature and the governor to end “the purely ugly greed.”