Posted from Harlem, New York
at the First Corinthian Baptist Church
By Lydia T. Blanco
Chanting “we want 20,” advocates for a $20 minimum wage packed a Harlem church on Thursday night to begin a new campaign for economic justice in New York City.
The event and campaign, named Overlooked & Undercounted: Journey to Living Wage, was held at First Corinthian Baptist Church, 1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in New York, New York. The campaign takes a faith-centered approach at attaining economic equality. Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and non-believers have joined the effort.
New York City’s current living wage is $11.50 per hour with benefits and $13.30 an hour without benefits according to the New York government site www.newyork.gov.
The median rent is Manhattan in $3,069 and in order to qualify for a unit with that price tag one would have to earn $44 an hour. So, why $20 and hour? Who will it help? Will it be a good start? Is it attainable?
“If you think about it $20 is really not a lot. To move from $8.25 or $9.25 to $15 is really moving from one level of poverty to another,” said Pastor Michael A. Walrond Jr. of Corinthian.
Walrond serves as the chair of the Mayor De Blasio’s Clergy Advisory Council and says that he advises the mayor on issues that impact the community.
Other faith and community leaders stand in solidarity and faith in this journey to financial freedom for workers.
The Rev. Yolanda D. Brown, senior pastor of economic development, at Congregation Destiny in Manhattan said that economic development and financial freedom are essential to the Black community.
“I’ve presented at the wage board. I’ve sat and gave testimony about how we feel as a faith institution on what needs to happen. Wherever there’s a platform for justice my voice will be heard. It’s all about community-family. Our community of color, Black and Brown, are deteriorating because of the economics.”
The night was interactive and included prayer, inspiration words and song as well as a budgeting exercise where participants watched a CNN Money video about a young lady who is living off of a low working wage and worked in groups on a budgeting exercise.
Although there was a good community turnout and the program was interactive Walrond said the evening was not merely a pep rally but a call to action and about “raising our consciousness to deal with this issue of low wages to push for a real living wage.”
“ This calls out poverty as well,” he added. “You can’t escape it because the tentacles of poverty run deep in this city whether it’s education, housing, mental health public safety-you call the roll.”
Pastor Walrond, inter-faith leaders and organizations like Real Living Wage New York City will continue to push for a living wage of $20 per hour for New Yorkers. For more information about the campaign visit www.reallivingwagenyc.org and www.fcbcnyc.org.