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Victories in New York and California for a $15 an Hour Minimum Wage!

March Newsletter
March 31, 2016
Bend the Arc

#JewsFor15 LIRR

Bend the Arc celebrates the passage of bills that raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next several years in New York and California. Additionally, the bills also each provide a form of paid sick days or family leave.

The growth in income inequality in this country is not only an economic crisis; it’s a moral crisis as well. A staggering 46 percent of working Americans make less than $15 an hour, which isn’t enough to pay for a worker’s basic needs — and far too little to shelter, feed, and clothe a family. The passage of these bills in two of the largest states in the nation is a huge victory, with 8.3 million low-wage workers now set to get a raise.

We recognize the sustained efforts of low-wage workers and labor organizers in achieving these hard-fought victories and we are proud that our #JewsFor15 campaign helped build support, especially in New York.

Bend the Arc launched our #JewsFor15 campaign this winter to begin mobilizing our community’s political voice and influence in support of the growing efforts to raise the minimum wage and protect union rights for all workers. By bringing our chapters and affiliates across the country into the larger Fight for $15 movement, and engaging our members’ personal and organizational Jewish networks, we’re adding a powerful Jewish voice to local and state efforts to raise the minimum wage in jurisdictions across the country.

In New York, Bend the Arc focused our organizing efforts on Long Island, in collaboration with the statewide coalition. We called more than 1,000 voters and organized in-district legislative visits with the offices of all four Republican senators on Long Island who are on the Labor Committee, which has jurisdiction over minimum wage and paid family leave. These include Senator Martins (Chair of the Labor Committee), Senator Venditto, Senator Hannon, and Senator Marcellino. We also met with the Chief of Staff of Senator Flanagan, the Majority Leader of the NY Senate. Several Jewish Long Islanders from each district — many of whom were new to Bend the Arc — accompanied us to each of these meetings. In total, we engaged 16 volunteers in leadership roles in these legislative visits. They shared personal stories of why they feel passionately, as Americans and as Jews, about raising the wage.

Our efforts did not stop there. On Monday, March 28, Bend the Arc organizers, along with our partners at Long Island Progressive Coalition, Make the Road New York, and other allies, held demonstrations at five Long Island Railroad stations in the districts of NY Senators still on the fence about raising the minimum wage. Our efforts did not go unnoticed as the demonstrations were covered by several news outlets and featured on NPR, News 12 Long Island, and in Newsday. This was followed by a Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday, March 29, where low-wage workers spoke about their struggles living on poverty wages.

Bend the Arc supporters in New York, California, and all across the country have joined together and taken action online in the past few weeks. By working together, we are building on the legacy of Jewish labor organizers, who fought for higher wages, and we are sending a powerful message to elected officials that these issues still matter deeply to our community today.

This week saw huge victories, but there remain too many cities and states where workers are not paid a living wage and the federal minimum wage is still frozen at $7.25 an hour.

Reducing economic inequality is a priority for Bend the Arc and has long been a key part of our work. With our geographic reach and passionate supporters, Bend the Arc has an opportunity to help keep the movement’s momentum going by creating real change in our local communities and creating pressure for federal action.

You can join the #JewsFor15 campaign by signing the pledge and inviting family and friends to get involved.