New York City's minimum wage workers took part in two massive rallies on Thursday, joining thousands of workers from 40 different countries in a call to increase wages.
On Thursday morning and Thursday evening, hundreds of workers representing groups as diverse as military veterans, fast food workers, college graduates, immigrants and child care providers came together in Times Square to rally for a new minimum wage.
Back in November, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all state workers would receive a $15 minimum wage when the new state budget became law. The wage increase will affect about 10,000 public sector workers, including lifeguards, custodians, and office assistants.
On Thursday evening, he made another pledge to raise the wages of workers at the Fight For $15 rally in Times Square.
"We have a positive way forward — we have to restore the American dream," Cuomo said to a crowd of a few hundred people. "Restoring the American dream starts with paying people a decent wage for a decent day's work, and that's taking the minimum wage of $9 in this state and raising it to $15."
Governor Cuomo's speech was just one of hundreds of rallying cries on Thursday. Fight For $15, the leading organization in the battle to increase minimum wages, helped organize strikes and protests across 300 cities. In Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., some protests grew large enough to shut down city streets.
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Currently, there are 3.3 million Americans who get paid at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. While economists remain divided on whether raising the minimum wage is good for the economy, there is little doubt about the suffering of workers who live on the minimum wage.
"On this issue, the people have to lead. You organize the people, you mobilize people, you make their voice heard," Cuomo said. "All the great movements have started in New York. The civil rights movement started in New York, the women's rights movement started in New York, the workers' rights movement in New York, the NAACP started in New York, and this workers' Fight For $15 started in New York."