By Khorri Atkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
Living on minimum wage is a harsh reality for many New Yorkers like Sabrina Storey, a fast-food worker, who has been working at a local KFC franchise since December of last year.
“The wage is just unfair and for the work we do, we should get a higher raise,” said Storey, who gets a weekly earnings of $127, and says “that is not enough to pay rent and feed myself. I have a friend who helps me with things I need, but can’t afford.”
Storey is also facing another challenge: the recent cuts to food stamps, which she depends. Her story sounds extreme, but Storey is not alone. Living from paycheck to paycheck has been a national problem for many.
This concern prompted hundreds of women of color and members from grassroots organizations to rally at Union Square March 9, calling on Mayor de Blasio to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour. The rally coincided with a global campaign in recognition of International Women’s Day and highlighted the struggles that women around the world continues to face. Living on an unlivable minimum wage is one of them.
“Women are the head of most families. Some are doing two jobs and they need living wage jobs with benefits, said Christine Williams, a member of Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Million Worker March Movement. “$15 dollars an hour with benefits, that’s what we want and it needs to happen now,” she added.
Williams works in the city’s subway system, and said she has been seeing “homeless women and children sleeping on the train 3 o’clock in the mornings, because they have no where to go.” She echoed, “If the system is not creating jobs, you have to make these low wage jobs livable wage jobs.”
In his first State of the City address, in February, de Blaiso have asked the state’s legislature for the city to set a higher minimum wage. But, “this wouldn’t be productive” and may caused “a chaotic situation,” Cuomo said in a recent interview with WCNY’s Susan Arbetter on “The Capitol Pressroom.”
“We’re one state and we don’t want to cannibalize ourselves. We don’t want to have different cities with different tax rates, competing among themselves. We compete with other states,” Cuomo added.
But in one of the nation’s most expensive cities, which has a high cost of living, protesters argued that New York’s current $8-per-hour is a poverty-level wage. States like Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco are all considering to increase their minimum wage up to $15 an hour.
Saturday’s rally started at 23–29 Washington Place where the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory once was. Women from all ethnicity groups, including Muslims and student activism groups marched to International Action Center’s New York office with signs, some with pictures of women political prisoners and Marissa Alexander, as passersby looked to see what was happening. Some waved their hands in support. They stopped at a McDonalds franchise, and chanted “The women united will never be defeated! $15 minimum wage is what we want!”
Among the hundreds was Jocelyn Gay, who marched with four others, representing women in Haiti they told the AmNews. This is due to the ongoing struggles that women in the earthquake ravaged country continues to endure. They’re not getting no help from the government, Gay said.
“If the women are behind, workers are behind. A lot of women are still homeless after the earthquake,” said Gay, who alleged that “the UN military forces are raping females and males,” but an allegation that was also reported by the media.
“They are being paid hefty salaries for doing absolutely nothing. Women are the backbone of the society in Haiti,” she continues. Many of them work as farmers and sell as vendors in the market place. Women are also being exploited especially in the factories, with the low wages they get despite long hours they work.”
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