Activists Around the US Fight to Raise the Minimum Wage
The Nation — At New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, namesake of that scion of noblesse oblige, there is a great deal in the way of noblesse, as it is a hub for the world’s financial elite, but not much in the way of oblige. The workers who provide security, handle baggage, clean, and cook at JFK make an average wage of $8 an hour, too often putting not just a plane ticket but any semblance of financial security completely out of reach.
Prince Jackson, a security guard at JFK, makes $1,000 per month. “Half of the money goes to rent,” Jackson told a crowd of union members and community activists gathered in New York City’s Union Square on July 24. “After all of my expenses I don’t have anything left.…I can’t explain how much I need the minimum wage to increase.”
The rally was part of a broader movement to demand an increase in the minimum wage, which at the federal level has stood stagnant at $7.25 since July 24, 2009. An estimated 4.5 million workers in the United States make at or below the minimum wage, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that seven out of the ten fastest growing occupations, such as in-home healthcare workers and retail workers, are typically low-wage. A coalition of labor unions and community organizations across the United States, led by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), coalesced around the issue on July 24, with actions in more than 30 cities. Organizers have also protested companies that have historically offered low-wage jobs, such as McDonald’s in Milwaukee and JC Penney in New York City, in addition to members of Congress opposed to or ambivalent about a minimum wage increase.