Monday, January 11, 2016

How New York's "Fight for $15" Launched a Nationwide Movement

[Immigrant workers continue to lead labor struggles. For other articles, see]

Wendi C. Thomas, Frederick McKissack, Jr., The American Prospect
January 4, 2016

Brooklyn car-wash worker Angel Rebolledo and Bronx fast-food employee Flavia Cabral work in jobs and neighborhoods that are miles apart, but they have remarkably similar stories to tell.

Rebolledo, a 55-year-old Mexican immigrant, was earning $600 a week to work 90 hours at the Vegas Auto Spa car wash in 2013 when he realized that he could not make ends meet and had to take a stand.

Rebolledo was getting constant nosebleeds from the harsh acids used to wash the grime off the vehicles. Along with his fellow “car washeros,” as they became known, Rebolledo joined a grassroots campaign that pushed for legislation to regulate the troubled car-wash industry. In June, the carwasheros celebrated the passage of New York’s first Car Wash Accountability Act, which among other provisions protects car-wash workers from wage theft.

Across town in the Bronx, 53-year-old Dominican immigrant Flavia Cabral had also reached a breaking point. Juggling two minimum-wage jobs, one at a fast-food restaurant and the other at a shipping company, Cabral was more worried about sustaining her family on $8.75 an hour than she was about her painful deep-fryer and oven burns. Like the carwasheros, Cabral and her fellow fast-food workers organized to take a stand. The upshot was that in September, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a proposal by the state’s labor commissioner to raise fast-food workers’ pay to $15 an hour.[...]

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