Bed-StuyBlogCommunityCrown HeightsEconomic Justice
5784079222_1753aa8f0a (1)
May 31, 2011

Get on the Bus: Bringing the Fight for a Living Wage to Central Brooklyn

“Get on the bus!” That was my clarion call for the past few weeks leading up to the Living Wage NYC campaign’s press conference and rally on Thursday, May 12th in front of City Hall Park. The campaign’s goal is to pass the “Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act”, which would guarantee a living wage of $10.00 / hour ($11.50 / hour if the employer doesn’t provide health benefits) for employees in city subsidized development projects that receive over $100,000 of taxpayer dollars.
The rally was wildly positive and energetic—with short speeches from supporters in the City Council, retail workers, labor leaders, clergy and even business leaders. Representatives from faith-based institutions were particularly effective, offering a serious dose of moral authority and historical context, and making clear that this effort is just the latest in a long tradition of the fight for human and economic rights, emphasized by the campaign’s lineage to the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Unknown Object
A Different Vision
The Living Wage NYC campaign’s message of shared prosperity is a long time coming. It’s a challenge to the prevailing economic vision which lets businesses and the private markets decide how to run things while working class people get shafted.
I believe we are witnessing the expression of this in all areas of our economic lives–from federal proposals to gut and privatize Medicaid and the food stamps program, to the unwillingness of NYS leadership to extend the “millionaires tax”, to the Mayor’s opposition to enact living wage laws in the city. It seems we would rather fire teachers than ask our wealthy brothers and sisters and successful corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.

Can’t we come up with a better economic vision than this practice of targeted sacrifice, where the poor pay more? I don’t buy that logic for a second.  Neither do millions of other everyday New Yorkers.  And so I have worked to bring people together to forge a new story of prosperity for all people.
As an organizer for the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, my task is to get our members involved in winning the Living Wage campaign and other policy campaigns at the city, state, and federal levels. Our members are defined loosely as economically struggling New Yorkers, typically accessing emergency food programs (soup kitchens and food pantries) with which we partner.
Though much of my work focuses on food justice—equitable access to healthy food—we’ve always been clear that, in the city, lack of food usually means lack of money, i.e. poverty.  That’s why supporting living wages for all workers in one of the most expensive cities in the world is crucial to addressing inequality. Given the recent attacks on unions and the tendency for progressives to divide ourselves these partnerships between economic justice organizing and labor are so very needed and refreshing.
The Hard Part
Getting our members to events like the Living Wage NYC campaign rally is, of course, the challenging work. I spent most of my past few weeks organizing people from Central Brooklyn to attend the events, mainly through St. John’s Bread and Life, a soup kitchen and multi-service organization, and also partnering with an organizer at Neighbors Together, a similar organization nearby. We had a bus ordered to make it easy and bring people down to City Hall—we just needed to fill it with people.
I’m used to dealing with a wide array of negative responses to taking action—from inertia (“I’ve never done it before.”), to fear (“I try not to get involved in it.”), to isolation (“I alone can’t change it.”), to self-doubt (“I’m no good at it.”), to good old fashioned apathy (“It doesn’t matter.”). This speaks to the need for deeper opportunities for engagement and leadership in Central Brooklyn in the fight for social justice in our neighborhoods, our city, and beyond. Not surprisingly, our members who do consistently take action, and who did get on the bus, have had training to sharpen their skills and analysis of what is really going on, exhibit confidence in their power to change things, and feel a sense of community and support as they go forward in this work.
I have the pleasure to witness a lot of ‘first times’ in community organizing—someone’s first phone call to Congress, first visit to a City Council office, first trip to Washington, D.C., first testimony at a public hearing, and so on. Most of our members that day had never attended a rally, let alone a full-out demonstration or march. The typical routes that people use to arrive at a political awareness (union membership, civic groups, interest organizations, the college campus, etc.), are generally avenues not available to or taken by our members.
Of course, I also know plenty of college graduates, brownstone owners, and members of the Kiwanis Club who have their heads in the sand politically. In our “How Laws Are Made” training workshop, I often open by citing a recent Zogby poll which says that while 75 percent of Americans can name all of the Three Stooges, only 42 percent can name the three branches of government. We are all long past due for a crash course in democracy.
It is a big deal to make a commitment and stand up for something. We are all so caught up in the hustle of just scraping by, that we grow disconnected both from each other and from confronting the real source of our troubles.
I often ask myself, “What would power in this city look like if every low-income and working class New Yorker knew exactly how legislative process in City Hall works, and had the means to stand up and change it?” Would we be more confident to act? Would we all get on the bus?

About this author

Brooklyn Movement Center

Brooklyn Movement Center

The Brooklyn Movement Center (the “MC”) is a membership-led, direct-action, community organizing body based in Central Brooklyn (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and the surrounding area). We bring together residents to identify important issues in their lives, win concrete improvements in their community, and build power. The Brooklyn MC is staffed by local organizers, supported by volunteers, governed by a community-based board of directors, and guided by an advisory group made up of activists and organizers from across the city

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Bed-Stuy
 
Listen to Manny W. talk about how a constant police presence...
 
As I approached the corner of Throop Avenue and Van Buren...
 
On July 21st 2013 Kyam Livingston, a 37 year old African...
 
Listen to Ricky S. talk about the misplaced priorities of the...
 
Raise your hand if you’re jaded by elections. You should be....
 
Few people consider voting subversive activity. In fact, we think of...
 
  The race to represent District 36 in the NYC Council...
 
Listen to Malcolm S. talk about the various constitutional violations inherent...
 
Charla Harlow (of the Harlow Project ) was with us at the Chalk...
 
Marc K. believes the NYPD are directly targeting communities of color....
 
Listen to Michael talk about the consequences of taking a plea...
 
Listen to Miles K. talk about how angry it made him...
 
In this episode of “On The Block”, BMC sits with Chelsea...
 
Listen to Milton P. talk about being beaten ruthlessly by the...
 
Think you’re a Taboo champ? PROVE IT! Come with a team...
 
By: Kirsten John Foy Can you imagine needing a service with...
 
Last year thousands of MomsRising.org members told Governor Coumo that NY’s...
 
Natasha was on her way to the library when she was...
 
After a year of research and conversations with hundreds of local...
 
By YK Hong Dedicated to all of those who walk down...
 
By John Raskin Brooklynites are working together to win a better...
 
Oliver S. talks about racial profiling in this sound bite about...
 
Listen to Oscar C. talk about his encounters with the NYPD...
 
Listen to Paulene J. talk about the time her grandson was...
 
By: Leon Johnson As a child the primary location of refuge,...
 
By: Byron Hurt The food we eat is as critically important...
 
Listen to Ricky S. talk about the misplaced priorities of the...
 
It was a moment many had expected for years, ever since...
 
Listen to Roland L. talk about how gay and queer people...
 
Listen to Roy F. talk about how the police can get...
 
In this podcast, hear Samuel break down the real issue of...
 
Although New York City public schools progress reports for academic year...
 
By Rachel M. Kleinman & Damon T. Hewitt Each year, nearly...
 
Think Stop & Frisk is only a problem for men? Think...
 
The Brooklyn Movement Center has teamed up with the Brooklyn Community...
 
“Just because they have a badge or a uniform they think...
 
The  Center for Constituational Rights  has created a podcast of New Yorkers telling their stories...
 
This Wednesday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), fellow advocates, and...
 
Wednesday, October 3rd at 6 p.m., Executive Director, Mark Winston Griffith...
 
On this one year anniversary of the birth of Occupy Wall...
 
The security guards at New York City Hall were overwhelmed, not...
 
<a href=”http://brooklynmovementcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/dnainfo.jpg”><img class=”size-medium wp-image-409″ src=”http://brooklynmovementcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/dnainfo-300×224.jpg” alt=”Bk stoop” width=”300″ height=”224″ /></a> BK...
 
<strong>By Lindsay Kalter</strong> <a href=”http://brooklynmovementcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/photoadayintersections.jpg”><img class=”size-medium wp-image-417″ alt=”photo a day garden”...
 
On the Block with BMC is a monthly video series profiling...
 
The Brooklyn Movement Center believes everyday people are the true witnesses...
 
Are you going to be a high school junior or senior...
 
A tiny burst of energy is enough to get any ball...
 
  Please come out and check out this important film being...
 
Daily Press , a coffee shop on Franklin & Hancock in Bedford-Stuyvesant, is...
 
By Maitefa Angaza – The Pratt Center for Community Development, Pratt’s Initiative...
 
Our very own Mark Winston Griffith was on NPR with Brian...
 
Several stores in the Bed-Stuy community have a new product on...
 
Over 150 Frederick Douglass Academy IV (FDA IV) and P.S. 26 parents, alumni,...
 
Executive Director Mark Winston Griffith joined Arva Rice, the president and CEO...
 
There are a lot of reasons for Central Brooklynites to not get involved...
 
You know Mary Ward.  She is in all of our families....
 
“Get on the bus!” That was my clarion call for the past...
 
In partnership with 500 Men Making a Difference, and the administration...
 
New details are emerging on the Department of Education’s decision that...
 
After only a few short months on the job, Cathie Black...
 
They’re super schools sent to save America’s neediest children.  Or they’re...
 
Congressman Anthony Weiner recently  released a report   that found that since 2006, the...
 
The state and city budgets contain nothing but bad news for...
 
Two years ago, Boys and Girls High School got a D...
 
Today on our website, the MC’s journalism intern Patrick Wall sounds...
 
Robert G. Thompson is a multimedia journalist, writer, and filmmaker, keeping a regular...
 
“I love the concept of change. Everybody’s in favor of change....
 
Robert G. Thompson is a multimedia journalist, writer, and filmmaker, keeping a regular...
 
The District 16 Project Bed-Stuy Patch/C.Zawadi Morris November 6, 2012  ...
 
Among the many items in this week’s news, there was one...
 
When times are hard, you discover who your real friends are....
 
The recent news that Mayor Bloomberg offered Jeffrey Canada, the founder...
 
No matter who you are, no matter what you do, there...
 
It’s no secret that Central Brooklyn is a poster child for...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
Listen to Manny W. talk about how a constant police presence...