Fast Food Workers Converge at Final Wage board Hearing iwth Emotional Testimony About Why Their Families Need $15 to Survive

For Immediate Release

Fast Food Workers Converge at Final Wage board Hearing iwth Emotional Testimony About Why Their Families Need $15 to Survive

Galvanizing Support for Governor Cuomo’s Historic Wage Board, Fast Food Workers Deliver Stacks of 160,000 Petition Signatures in Support of $15

Experts Say it's Time To Stop Subsidizing Industry's Low Wages, Which Cost NY Taxpayers $700 Million Annually

ALBANY, New York - In their final opportunity to testify publicly about what it's like trying to support a family in New York on $8.75, hundreds of cooks and cashiers from McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC converged on the last fast food wage board held in Albany on Monday. Saying that having extra money in their pockets would not only be beneficial to their families but to the economy as well, fast food workers made their case for $15.

"I can't stand to think that my children will grow up worrying about whether there's going to be a roof over their heads or food in their lunchboxes," saidJareema Vanison, who works at an Albany McDonald's. “I want what every parent wants— for my kids to grow up feeling safe and secure, with a bright future— and I just can't promise that making as little as I do. That's why I urge the wage board to recommend $15.  It's not just for me, it's for my family, and it's for our future."

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The workers delivered stacks of 160,000 petition signatures in support of a $15 fast food minimum wage, gathered over the course of the past month — concretely demonstrating support for their cause.

The worker's call for $15 also had support of a wide range of powerful progressive organizations including New York Communities for Change, Make the Road, the Working Families Party, MoveOn, Brigade, CREDO Action, Democracy for America, Citizen Action of New York, Strong Economy for All Coalition and Ultraviolet.

"By sticking together and speaking out, New Yorkers are leading the way to a new standard for fast-food workers and our families across the country,"said Ashona Osborne, an Arby's worker from Pittsburgh and a member of the National Organizing Committee of the Fight for $15, who traveled all the way to Albany to support fast food workers in New York State. "Workers from Pittsburgh to Pasadena urge Gov. Cuomo's Wage Board to recommend $15 an hour for New York's fast-food workers. When workers in New York—where our movement started in 2012—win $15, workers everywhere win."

Just before the doors opened for the last of four wage board hearings scheduled in New York State, fast food workers and their allies in clergy, labor and government gathered outside to voice their support for $15—rallying around the idea that a meaningful wage hike would stimulate local economies from Long Island to Rochester, and free workers from dependence on food stamps and other government services.  

“It makes no sense that employees of some of the richest corporations in the United States should have to rely on our local property taxpayer’s dollars for subsidies just to survive,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “We are pleased that a state wage board has been empanelled and urge the board to do the right thing and recommend a $15 minimum wage for fast-food workers of national chains. It’s the right thing to do for the workers, their children and for the local property taxpayers too."

“At my small business, I start my employees at $15 an hour and believe that every employee in every industry in New York should be paid a living wage.  That’s why I’m here today calling on the Wage Board to act to ensure all workers are paid a wage that allows them to pay their bills,” said Amy Collins, owner of New Shelves Publishing Services. “If I can afford it, so can McDonald’s.”

Fast food workers have brought the Fight for $15 to national prominence.  After expanding the fight to more than 230 US cities and across the globe, and winning $15 minimum wage in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the campaign is turning its sights back on New York State—looking to make it the first with a statewide $15 minimum.

“I applaud fast food workers in the State of New York and across the country who have been holding the line for the last three years advocating for themselves and their families,” said Albany Common Council Member Dorcey Applyrs.  “The time is now to stop talking about income inequality and start giving a hand-up to our fast food workers. Let's raise the wage to $15.”

According to a recently released report by the National Employment Law Project, fast food jobs have taken an outsized role in the economy in recent years, growing 57 percent between 2000 and 2014. Private sector jobs overall grew only 7 percent during the same period.  

The more than 182,000 fast food workers in New York State are among the lowest paid workers not only in New York but in the country. Full-time employment in a fast food job still leaves a worker under the poverty line, and requires supplementing with food stamps, Medicaid, and other social services.  

Fifty-two percent of fast food workers nationally – higher than any other industry—have at least one family member on food stamps, Medicaid or other social services, costing taxpayers $7 billion in public assistance nationwide. New York taxpayers subsidize fast food corporations to the tune of $700 million a year in public assistance to fast food workers.

The fast food industry can afford to do better.  While workers struggle to meet basic quality of life thresholds like shelter and food security, the fast food industry is booming amid increased sales and worker productivity: it posted $551 billion in global profits in 2014, a number which is projected to grow to $645 billion by 2018.  

Elected leaders, community activists and economic experts spoke about the effect that a $15 fast food minimum wage would have for workers, and for struggling communities all over the State.

"New York's Wage Board hearings have been democracy in action," said Bill Lipton, State Director of the New York Working Families Party. "The members of the board have now heard from fast food workers all across this state why they and their families need a living wage-- $15 an hour—and why they need it now. They have an opportunity to fundamentally transform the lives of fast food workers, and should not let it pass by. The Working Families Party strongly urges all three members of the Wage Board to raise the fast food minimum wage to $15 an hour."

“Most New Yorkers are working harder than ever before, while wages have been stuck in place for decades. If corporations like McDonald’s had shared our nation’s economic progress fairly with employees, the minimum wage would be more than $18 an hour,” said Karen Scharff, Executive Director of Citizen Action of New York. “That’s why it’s critical that the Wage Board take action to boost pay in the fast-food industry to $15 and make the Empire State a leader again for working families and the middle class.”

"Economists say that slow wage growth is the biggest problem in the American economy right now:  Governor Cuomo and the Wage Board should attack the problem head-on by boosting the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 an hour," said Michael Kink, Executive Director of the StrongEconomy for All Coalition. "It will help workers, it will help families and it will help power the New York economy from the bottom up."

“A lack of good paying jobs forces people who are working hard every day to turn to social services as a means to bridge the gap between their low pay and the actual cost of living and raising a family. It’s time to close that gap,” said Shana Davis, President of the Capital District Chapter Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. “The wage board can do it by backing $15. Without an increase to the minimum wage, hundreds of thousands of workers will continue to fall behind.”

“The wage board can be moral trail-blazers by doing do the right thing and backing a $15 an hour fair wage for fast-food workers,” said Reverend Valerie Faust, Pastor of Rhema Power Ministries.

"I work at Taco Bell, and my sister works at McDonald's. We're supporting our mother and my son. We cannot make it on minimum wage anymore. We need $15 an hour and we need it now.  Without it, my son will be one child in another whole generation of children in Rochester growing up in poverty,”said Joscline Harvey, a Taco Bell employee from Rochester.

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