New York — Carpenters, car wash workers, college professors, janitors, fast food workers and many others came together Dec. 6 in Times Square to demand good jobs at fair wages. The “Grand Bargain” currently being hashed out in Washington, which will involve cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid under the threat of the so-called fiscal cliff, was also denounced.
As one speaker put it: “They bailed out the banks to the tune of $19 trillion. They’ve got enough for us!”
A speaker for the Carpenters Union, one of the many construction unions present, called for “better wages, better benefits for everybody. I used to make minimum wage and now that I’m making better, I’m standing up for those who are not making it.” Unions for all workers is what would solve the financial crisis in this country, in his opinion.
“You can’t raise a family on minimum wage,” Pamela Flood, a Burger King worker with three children, said on stage at the rally. “With food and diapers, my paycheck is gone after two days. We need a change.”
A member of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents faculty and staff at the City University of New York, felt that his union’s lack of a contract makes it easier to see the need for solidarity with fast-food workers, who have no contract because they have no union representing them.
“Make the Road,” which describes itself as a mostly Latino/a organization based in Bushwick, Brooklyn, had a strong contingent that demanded an increase in the minimum wage. Their signs said, “$7.25 no es suficiente! $7.25 that ain’t right!” They also said that income equality is important regardless of a worker’s sexual orientation.
At the beginning of the rally, the large assemblage blocked 7th Avenue, a major thoroughfare in Manhattan, at the start of rush hour. The cops brought in barricades and tried to push the demonstrators back. The crowd didn’t move until a speaker said that the cops would otherwise prevent the program from happening.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union took about 150 people from the demonstration down to the Soho Car Wash, which they have organized, to demand the owner negotiate. 99 Pickets, a working group of Occupy Wall Street, took a group of people into a nearby McDonald’s to point out that the workers there need a union.
Other groups went to the Long Island Rail Road portion of Penn Station with leaflets asking the riders to pressure their congressional representatives to oppose the “Grand Bargain” and authorize support money for Sandy recovery.