Protesters in Albany have joined a national push today called “Fight for 15,” as workers and activists demand higher pay at low-wage jobs. The workers and labor unions want a federal minimum wage of $15.
Albany workers are part of a worldwide mobilization for a wage that meets basic needs.
Nationwide protests kicked-off just after 6 a.m. in New York City outside the Flatbush Avenue McDonald's in Brooklyn - and an hour later at the Holland Avenue McDonald's in Albany.
The #FightFor15 movement was launched nearly three years ago in New York City, when 200 cooks and cashiers walked off their jobs demanding $15 an hour and union rights. Charlie Albanetti is with Citizen Action of New York: "Today is the largest worker mobilization in history, in over 200 cities."
Albany participants include workers from area McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Boston Market and other fast-food restaurants; city crossing guards; Saint Rose College and Siena College adjunct professors; health care workers; UAlbany students; community groups and labor unions. Citizen Action's Karen Scharff: "We're out here today with workers striking McDonald's and other fast food companies because it's time we get fifteen dollars an hour and a union for fast food workers."
Lisa McComb is Director of McDonald’s Media Relations - she says that historically – out of approximately 800,000 people who work in McDonald’s restaurants – there have only been about 10-15 actual McDonald’s workers who have participated in events such as #FightFor15 - add Stacey Ellis from the Central Avenue McDonald's to that list: "$8.75 ain't enough to support my family. I need a union. People are getting burned at my job. It needs to change. And I feel like if we get fifteen and a union, we're protected. We can take care of our families and we don't get hurt."
Activists assembled mid-morning outside the 1814 Central Ave McDonald's; hundreds of strikers were expected for a noon rally and march through Empire State Plaza Concourse, also home to a McDonald's.
Jareema Zanison is a crew shift leader at a Capital Area Wendy's. "I'm a single parent. I work two jobs and I still can't get by. Fifteen dollars would be... you'll get by! It's hard to get even assistance from DSS or the county making 8.75. They think that's enough!"
Strike Poverty in the Hudson Valley is set to rally 4pm, meeting at the corner of Main St. and South Grand Ave in Poughkeepsie, then marching over to the McDonald's on Main St. to hear from workers who are demanding fair wages for their work.
Another Albany rally is planned for 5 p.m. at Dunkin' Donuts across from SUNY Albany at 1425 Washington Avenue.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman supports workers' efforts. "One of the great things that has really been a hallmark of America and has distinguished America from much of the world is that we've built a broad and robust middle class over the last couple of centuries. Those who work hard and play by the rules have been able to get ahead in this country. Unfortunately, today we're seeing that economic prosperity isn't being shared by everyone, and that too many families are falling behind despite record profits and economic gains being made by the country as a whole. Today I stand with the workers across New York and across the country who are calling to raise the minimum wage and level the playing field for working people. Nobody who works full time should have to live in poverty, and it starts with raising the minimum wage."
Schneiderman plans to attend what's anticipated to be the biggest rally of all in the continental U.S - 5:30 pm at Columbus Circle in New York City, where more than 15,000 workers are expected to march in demand for livable wages.
Lisa McComb emailed WAMC McDonalds's official corporate response, which says in part:
"We respect people’s right to peacefully protest, and our restaurants remain open every day with the focus on providing an exceptional experience for our customers. Recently, McDonald’s USA announced a wage increase and paid time off for employees at its company-owned restaurants and expanded educational opportunities for eligible employees at all restaurants. This is an important and meaningful first step as we continue to look at opportunities that will make a difference for employees."