Fast Food Workers in New York are Getting a Raise!

Hard work by our affiliate Citizen Action of New York – along with dozens of other allied organizations and unions, and thousands of workers who took to the streets and shared their personal stories – has paid off  in a huge victory.

Yesterday, the New York State Wage Board approved gradually raising the minimum wage for New York City fast food chain employees to $15 an hour by 2018. Fast food worker wages throughout New York state will gradually raise to $15 an hour by 2021.

“This is a huge victory for fast food workers, and for everyone working for low wages in New York,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society.  “It puts pressure on employers in other low-paying industries to start paying their workers a living wage.

“I applaud the hard work of everyone who fought for this important moment,” said Hall.

Fast food workers are paid less than any other occupation, and fast food work is projected to be the second largest growing occupation in the country, with more openings than nearly any other.

This momentous victory brings fast food workers in New York significantly closer to earning a wage that will allow them to support themselves. It will boost their own financial stability, their communities, and the economy for all of us.

In New York and many other states, $15 is still a modest wage. This increase however allows workers to come closer to making ends meet.

In the report “Families Out of Balance” by the Alliance for a Just Society, our research shows that a living wage for a single adult is $18.47 an hour in New York state and is $22.49 an hour in New York City.

A pay raise is long overdue for all our workers nationwide. Tomorrow marks six years since the federal government last raised the minimum wage – to $7.25 on July 24, 2009.

A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and in the House by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

If the wage can be raised in Seattle and New York and Los Angeles and so many other cities, it can be raised nationally – and we can do it.

Congratulations New York!

 

Arrested for Standing on a Sidewalk

By Charles Meacham http://charlesmeacham.com/

It’s a familiar scene.

One parent takes their children into a restaurant to use the restroom while the other parent waits outside. It’s been done by many of us — as parents, aunties, uncles, siblings. When kids have to go, they have to go.

But on July 19 this year, this simple and innocent scenario ended with the arrest and brutalization of one of the parents.

Absurd and humiliating acts of police overreach have also become familiar in this country. There are countless incidents of false arrest, harassment and use of force against innocent victims by the police every day in the U.S. The cases that end in loss of life garner headlines (sometimes), but mostly we don’t hear of the seemingly minor and mundane cases, unless they happen to us or to our family and friends.

But this time, the police picked on the wrong person.

Chaumtoli Huq, a well-respected human rights lawyer who is on a leave of absence as general counsel for New York City’s office of Public Advocate, was arrested in the middle of Times Square (a place often filled with tens of thousands of people standing in public) for, it seems, simply standing in public.

Standing in public and being South Asian and Muslim that is.

Huq — who was born in Bangladesh — and her family, had attended a rally in support of Palestinian rights that day. Then they took the young kids to the restroom at Ruby Tuesday nearby. Even though she was standing “inches” from the restaurant windows, police told Huq to clear the sidewalk. Huq said, “I’m not in anybody’s way. Why do I have to move? What’s the problem?”

That’s when police grabbed Huq and slammed her against the wall. She called for help and stated out loud, “I am not resisting arrest.” Police twisted her arm behind her back and handcuffed her. The officers rifled through her purse without probable cause. The police arrested her and took her away before her family even returned from the restroom.

To make matters worse, when Huq’s husband went to the jail, he aroused suspicion from police because he had a different last name than his wife. “In America wives take the names of their husbands,” the officer said.

Well then. What year is this again?

According to DNAInfo, Huq “was held for more than nine hours in lockup before being arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, court records show.”

Huq and her family have subsequently filed a complaint with the New York Police Department’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. They are also suing the NYPD and the City of New York in Federal Court for violating her civil rights, charging the police used “unreasonable and wholly unprovoked force” and claiming the arrest was part of a pattern of harassment of people of color in the city.

Huq told New York Daily News “I was hesitant to bring a case. My job is to be behind the scenes, and help all New Yorkers,” she said. But she realized “that I can use what happened to me to raise awareness about overpolicing in communities of color. I want there to be a dialogue on policing and community relations,” she said.

Let’s hope that conversation is one good outcome of this terrible and avoidable incident.

At the Alliance for a Just Society we speak of the criminalization of everyday life. Perhaps nothing demonstrates that reality more than an innocent mom being arrested for standing still on the sidewalk.

By Charles Meacham http://charlesmeacham.com/
Photo by Charles Meacham
By Charles Meacham http://charlesmeacham.com/
Photo by Charles Meacham

PHOTOS: © Charles Meacham Used with permission.

Job Gap: Working Families Struggling, Sliding Deeper into Debt

JobGapNYSMeme2Debt – it’s become so entrenched in our daily lives that it’s almost a given. Debt is often a choice for higher income families, as an investment in the form of a mortgage or as a means to help pay for college.

However, lower-income households often end up in debt because their incomes leave them living paycheck-to-paycheck without a cushion for even minor incidentals. When an someone gets sick, the doctor bills pile up. If they attend college to improve their job opportunities, the student loan debt piles up.

It is an impossible balance sheet, resulting in families cutting back on necessities like health care, meals, or heat in the winter as they try to scrape by.

Today, Alliance for a Just Society released Families Out of Balance, the first report in the 2014 Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series. The report shows exactly how dramatically lower-income workers are disproportionately burdened by debt.

In addition, the reports shows that minimum wages in 10 states studied across the country fall far short of a living wage – even without adding debt to the equation. Continue reading “Job Gap: Working Families Struggling, Sliding Deeper into Debt”

Make the Road New York Wins Pharmaceutical Language Access Fight in NYC

Thanks to compelling stories ((“Bad Medicine: How New York area pharmacies’ failure to provide translation and interpretation service prevents immigrant New Yorkers from receiving quality medical care and stands in clear violation of local, state and federal law,” Make the Road New York and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, October, 2007, http://www.maketheroad.org/report.php?ID=437)) from members of Make the Road New York (MRNY), strong relationships with decision makers and key community partners, and good old fashioned direct action, chain pharmacies in New York City will now translate the purpose, dosage, and side-effect information for all medications prescribed to limited and non-English speakers. This means that the major pharmacy chains like CVS, Duane Reade, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, Pathmark, Target and Costco will now provide translation of medicine into Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Russian, French, and, in some places, Polish. Continue reading “Make the Road New York Wins Pharmaceutical Language Access Fight in NYC”