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Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Activist group United NY mobilizes to support job creation, wage fairness and worker justice

The group is putting together a coalition of advocacy groups under the banner ‘New Day, New York’ to support the efforts of low-wage workers for fair pay and the right to unionize.

It is not that they don’t believe Bill de Blasio’s promises. On the contrary, they are excited by the possibilities opened by having a mayor who embraces their progressive goals and aspirations.

It is that they want to make sure the new mayor will be able to make his promises come true. And for that, they are organizing to actively show their support for him.

“The city has spoken and there is this moment right now when we can actually win,” said Camille Rivera, a Bronx native who is the executive director of United NY, a group that has been extremely active over the past year fighting inequality and building support for job creation, wage fairness and worker justice.

“For years, progressive ideas were laughed at but now the city has spoken and people want change. We can have this moment because we have a new mayor who took this message with him and is not afraid to talk about it,” an enthusiastic Rivera said. “But this is not about giving him a blank check, this is not about one person, this is about a moment, our moment, and we need to take action.”

Action for Rivera and her group goes well beyond the usual, boring gathering of pols on the steps of City Hall. United NY is one of the main forces pushing for a very busy week — Dec. 2-9 — in which dozens of low-wage workers like car washers and fast-food employees, that have been the vanguard of the struggle for the right to unionize; community groups, faith organizations, labor unions and social service providers, united under the banner “New Day, New York,” will take to the streets. The UFT, Center for Popular Democracy, New York Communities for Change and Make the Road New York are also part of the coalition.

The idea is to capture the political moment and to put real people’s stories front and center. Stories like that of Christina O’Neill, 30, a Brooklyn resident who has two sons, 4 and 5. She is unemployed.

“It is important that everybody has the same opportunities. I have had a rough go on life but I want my children to have the same opportunities as everybody else,” she said. “No one should go hungry or uneducated, people need health care. We have to work together as a community. With hard work and dedication we can accomplish this.”

Another story is that of Joanna Cruz, a single mother of a 12-year-old daughter who last Thursday took part in a planning meeting with parents, teachers and workers to exchange ideas, talk about their struggles and make plans for the coming week of actions.

“I am hopeful that things will get better,” said Cruz, a Dominican immigrant who lives in Queens. For the last two years she has worked at Airserv, an airport cleaning company, making $8.75 an hour.

“Cleaning airplanes is hard work and it isn’t fair we are paid so little,” Cruz said. “Like everybody else I work to have a good salary and better opportunities for my daughter. Now there is hope for change, but we need to make ourselves felt.”

Their impact will be felt come December with actions planned with Walmart and Cablevision workers, “carwasheros” and fast-food employees, teachers and community organizers, immigrants and labor unions.

“The culmination will be Dec. 5 with a New Day New York rally at 4:30 at Foley Square,” Rivera said. “When we have a mandate like this it is an opportunity to do pretty amazing things to make lives better for the city’s 99%. And we will take it.”

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