On the picket line

Raise the federal minimum wage NOW!

On July 24, during a national day of action in more than 30 cities, a broad coalition of labor, faith, civil rights and community activists demonstrated to raise the minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. The so-called Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, introduced in Congress on March 5, would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and index it thereafter to the rate of inflation. It would also raise the tipped minimum wage — which has been frozen at $2.13 an hour for the last 22 years! — to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. The act would increase the tipped minimum wage 95 cents a year until it reaches $7.10.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United states, “The restaurant industry is the largest low-wage employer in the country, resulting in servers experiencing three times the poverty rate, and using food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce.” Meanwhile, the National Restaurant Association reported record-breaking sales of $45.9 billion this April alone. (rocunited.org, May 22) No wonder ROC United is targeting Darden Restaurants, a billion-dollar corporation and the largest table service group in the world, which is blatantly lobbying against the raise. ROC of New York continued its focus on Darden’s Capital Grille on July 24.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that some 30 million minimum – and low-wage workers — 8 million of whom work in the food industry — would see a raise in pay, while the AFL-CIO estimates that the change would pull more than half of the U.S. working poor out of poverty. To sign an AFL-CIO petition raising the federal minimum wage, go to tinyurl.com/172d4m3.

More NYC ‘carwashers’ vote union

Workers at the WCA Car Wash in South Central Bronx, N.Y., voted unanimously for Department Store Union representation on July 25. They joined Spanish-speaking workers at seven other New York City carwashes who have voted to join RWDSU. The WASH New York campaign, which also includes NY Communities for Change and the Center for Popular Democracy, has already won two RWDSU contracts.

A WASH campaign study estimated that John Lage, who owns WCA and more than 20 other carwashes in the NYC area, could earn as much as $34 million a year while paying the workers minimum wages or less. For instance, a WASH survey of workers at 29 carwashes found that 66 percent said they often are paid less than the minimum wage. More than 71 percent of the workers put in at least 60 hours a week, but few got overtime pay after 40 hours. When they did, it was often less than time and a half. Conditions at carwashes in Southern California have improved in the last year after three contracts were signed with Steelworkers Local 675. NYC organizers are hoping “the same spillover effect” will help some 5,000 mostly immigrant workers at 500 carwashes in New York state. (blog, aflcio.org, July 25)