Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
Workers, politicians and unions trying to draw attention to the plight of low wage workers rallied at Herald Square. It was all part of national day of action that took place in 30 cities across the country.
Airport employee Prince Jackson was scheduled to speak at the rally. He works security for a major airline and said that given the seriousness of his job, he felt he deserved a higher wage than the $8 an hour he’s paid.
“There are exit doors where passengers exit and go to baggage carousels,” Jackson said. “And we have to make sure that no one enters through that exit thereby bypassing TSA.”
Jackson said he can’t afford to rent an apartment so he rents a room for $500 a month, half his monthly wages. He said he wanted to make more in order to help support his son who is currently attending college.
Several clergy members also took part in the demonstration. Fabian Arias, a pastor at a Lutheran church in East Harlem, said many of his congregants are car wash workers that get mistreated and are paid about $5 an hour. “It’s a very dramatic situation for them,” he said. “They work 16-, 17-hours a day for six or seven days a week.”
From Herald Square demonstrators headed downtown stopping along the way in front of businesses they said paid workers too little.
“I’m a mother of three children and $8 an hour is just not going to kick it,” said Shantese Jones in front of Burlington Coat Factory, the major retailer that employs her. Jones said the minimum wage should be $10 an hour.
Burlington Coat Factory couldn’t be reach for comment.
The demonstration ended at Union Square where a crowd of Con Ed workers, still locked out of their jobs, joined the large demonstration.
Organizers said they were rallying to raise the minimum wage. They're also trying to unionize workers at car washes, supermarkets and airports — industries where they say workers are mistreated and underpaid.
Efforts to raise the minimum wage on the state level failed to pass this legislative session, while Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed living wage and prevailing wage bills.