As Donald Trump’s cabinet fills up with an unprecedented bevy of billionaires – and what may shape up to be the most anti-worker administration in history – working Americans are wondering what will happen to their hard-fought gains.
Trump’s initial “labor secretary” nominee, Andrew Puzder, a billionaire fast food CEO whose company has a long history of wage-theft lawsuits and campaigned against minimum wage, was brought down thanks to scrutiny from both the left and right. That win was shortly celebrated as Trump nominated Alex Acosta, who stands a good chance of being voted in. While Acosta is a more typical Republican pick for the Trump administration, he will likely be pushed to undo the work his predecessors started on, especially when it comes to minimum wage.
In New York City, though, we’re standing with workers.
Workers like Rosa Rivera, a mom and grandma, who works at McDonald’s in Washington Heights and who has been part of the Fight for $15 campaign since the first strike four years ago. Rosa struggles to support her family as her boss often changes her schedule or sends her home early, cutting into the paycheck upon which three generations rely.
“I have always fought for what’s fair, to take care of my family and to support my coworkers, but after almost 15 years working for McDonald’s, I’m still struggling to get by,” Rosa said. “We just got a pay increase thanks to our campaign.”
On December 31, New York City’s 65,000 fast food workers saw their minimum wage increase to $12 per hour, on its way up to $15 at the end of 2018.
“But with my boss changing my schedule every week,” Rosa continued, “I never know if I’ll make enough to cover my rent, food and other bills.”
A recent Community Service Society report found that more than two-thirds of low-income workers with fluctuating hours and limited notice have trouble paying their rent or bills. Workers can’t build a stable life without a stable work schedule.
Together with Council Members Corey Johnson and Debi Rose, we introduced legislation to ensure that fast food workers have the stability and opportunity that their families deserve.
Three of the bills would require fast food chains to give workers a fair work week including: two-week advance notice of their schedules along with a modest pay premium if schedules are changed at the last minute; restrictions on “clopenings,” the practice of requiring workers who close a store late one night to come back a few hours later to open it the next morning; and a requirement that stores give current part-time employees the chance to work more hours – so they can become full-time employees, if they want – before hiring new part-time workers.
A fourth bill, the Fast Food Worker Empowerment Act, would create a new model for worker organizing, the first of its kind in our country. Employers would be required to honor workers’ requests to make a paycheck deduction – of voluntary contributions, from their own pay – to a not-for-profit organization that could fight for the workers, their families and their communities.
Taken together, these proposals – coupled with the coming raises in the minimum wage – will put New York City’s fast food workers on a path to the middle class and create a healthy, safe and sensible work environment.
We’re learning from the experience of Seattle and San Francisco, who have already adopted similar legislation. At a recent hearing, dozens of workers and advocates testified calling for the passage of these bills.
With President Trump and his administration of out-of-touch billionaires quickly working to attack our most vulnerable communities, it’s up to us to protect hard-working New Yorkers like Rosa.
Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Brad Lander are New York City Council Members.