Community activists, local officials and 1199SEIU caregivers from the Syracuse, NY area held a spirited rally February 5 urging NY State legislators to pass a $15 minimum wage for all workers by March 31. The event was held at the People’s AME Zion Church on the city’s south side. The effort was part of the on-going Fight For $15 campaign, which will lift low-wage working families out of poverty and ensure good jobs in every community.
"It's not algebra,” observed Tasha Cooper, a CNA at Utica’s Focus Rehab. “It's a simple equation. We aren't asking for handouts, we're willing to work hard, we just need to be paid a living wage so we can take care of our families and our responsibilities."
Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Common Councilmembers Helen Hudson and Khalid Bey spoke passionately about the importance of a living wage for all New Yorkers, especially in the state’s Central region with its high rates of poverty and joblessness. Mayor Miner praised the fearless authenticity the workers continued to bring to the Fight For $15 struggle.
“I know it’s not easy to get up here and speak, especially on a topic that is so personal,” said Miner. “But it is important that you continue to speak out and tell your story, if you do not, there will be no justice.”
The $15 minimum is not simply a raise; it’s a pathway out of poverty, a way for parents to take better care of their children, a way toward better living conditions for entire families, and relief from the emotional anguish that comes with having to make hard choices around paying for necessities or paying the bills.
Sharon Owens head of Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility Inc. was also among the speakers on the program.
“Let’s equip our people to raise their families. Healthy children live in households where the adults in those houses are confident that they can pay their rent, pay their mortgage, put food on the table, keep the heat on,” she said. “People don’t want to come to our community center to get food. People don’t want to come because they need a coat. People don’t want to come and feel like they are getting a hand-out. They want to take care of themselves.”
Carlita Adamy a Driver at Loretto Nursing Home in Syracuse was among the 1199ers at the rally; she knows first-hand what winning the Fight For $15 would mean to for New York State’s workers.
“Recently, I moved to a new place and I didn’t have hot water. I couldn’t get hot water turned on because I have to come up with a lot of money to get it turned on. We were taking a bath out of a pot of water warmed up on the stove. I have two kids. I have no car. I have no cell phone,” said Adamy “Fifteen dollars would mean a lot to my family. My husband makes minimum wage and he has 14 years of cooking experience. That’s not right. We have to fight for people. $15 an hour - This stuff can happen; if we stick together we will get it.”