A Wage Victory for All Workers

Last week, the New York Wage Board recommended that the governor approve a $15 minimum wage for the state’s fast food workers. If Gov. Andrew Cuoco agrees, wages will gradually increase to at least that amount by 2021, making it nearly equal to what the minimum wage was in the 1960s.

This is a victory through and through. It should be applauded. It should also be noted that this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as what needs to be done. All workers, of all skill levels, deserve a basic standard of living. The current federal minimum wage, $7.25, does not allow for that.

Although this is a victory for fast food employees, many other workers are left behind. The recommendation only impacts the fast food industry, meaning low-wage workers in a slew of other industries are passed over. Day care workers, nursing home assistants and nannies are still left wondering when they, too, will receive the same respect and dignity, the same right to live and pay their bills.

This isn’t a matter of skilled vs. unskilled labor. When you show up to work, when you’re on your feet all day, when you’re sweating in a kitchen with no lunch break, when you work 50 plus hours a week to put food on the table for your children who you never get to see due to your juggling three jobs, you deserve recognition. You deserve respect. You deserve a living wage.

Increasing the fast food workers’ wage will pressure other companies to increase the wages of workers currently making $15 an hour. It will also give those workers some bargaining leverage when they ask their employers for raises. This is the opposite of trickle-down economics. This is the way an economy can actually work for the people who keep it running.

A victory for a group of people who have been stuck in the mud for way too long will help propel positive change for the rest of us to get where we deserve to be as workers and as Americans.  A living wage is our right—we must demand it and fight for it. This is just the beginning.

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