RWDSU Statement on Living Wage Vote/Campaign Finale
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum made the following remarks today at a noon press conference at City Hall before the New York City Council’s afternoon vote on living wage legislation:
Good afternoon. I’m Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). I want to thank everyone for being here for this historic occasion, especially the members of the Living Wage NYC Coalition and the many elected officials who are with us today and helped get us to this point. We could not have done it without Speaker Quinn, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and so many City Council members, especially Oliver Koppell, Annabel Palma, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams, and Tish James.
Over the past two years, thousands of New Yorkers have come together to support the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, living wage legislation that the City Council will pass this afternoon.
We built a citywide movement for living wage jobs, and this landmark legislation is the result of that movement.
Civil rights organizations, churches, LGBTQ groups, immigrant groups, labor unions, businesses and so many others all played important roles and share in this victory. What started as a campaign became a visible and vocal movement—a movement focused on putting a stop to a policy that has been hazardous to our economic health: city government enabling a select group of companies and developers to get richer from taxpayer subsidies, while allowing greater income inequality and poverty to take hold as a result. It’s no coincidence that a record number of New Yorkers applied for food stamps during the same mayoral administration that allowed the top 1 percent to hoard 44 percent of all income in the city. After billions spent on so-called job creation and economic development, New Yorkers are not better off: More poverty-wage jobs have been created at the bottom as profits swell at the top. A dark legacy if ever there was one.
It is economically and morally wrong to perpetuate this costly failure. We live in a city of many, not a plutocracy of few. The RWDSU, working with the Living Wage NYC campaign and the City Council, is proud to have championed legislation that will deliver real reform by investing taxpayer money more wisely in higher-wage jobs that lift us all up. Smart, democratic investment is the core of the Fair Wage for New Yorkers Act, it is the basis for a wage-led recovery for our economy and it rests on a principle of fairness that resonates across the political spectrum.
A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 74 % of New York City voters across parties support the living wage bill, with even 60% of Republicans saying it is government’s responsibility to ensure that workers earn a decent wage. So the legislation that has moved through the Council reflects the consensus of ideologically diverse New Yorkers—what this city values and believes in.
This is serious stuff: landmark living wage legislation that will raise wages for thousands of jobs in the coming years, because it will affect projects overseen by the largest urban economic development agency in the United States. Over time, as the living wage requirement is shown to be effective and beneficial in practice, it should bolster and strengthen other wage-focused campaigns. We need the vitality and strength of this living wage movement to live on and have a longer life, an afterlife far beyond today: we must channel the living wage movement into new and unprecedented efforts to reduce inequality and poverty, and to rebuild the city’s middle class after years of decline. We must fight those battles on all available fronts.
We must fight to ensure that all working people are treated with dignity, justice and respect.
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Walmart the Great Destroyer
Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU, UFCW) made the following statement at a City Hall press conference today to announce the release of a new report by Food and Water Watch and Walmart Free NYC:
Good morning. I’m Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW. I want to thank Food and Water Watch and the Walmart Free NYC Coalition for bringing us together today. We’re here to discuss an important new report showing that Walmart harms workers, suppliers, communities, and consumers.
The key finding is that Walmart is a source of tremendous devastation and loss wherever it operates. Walmart is the great destroyer, not the great savior it claims to be. Walmart takes away our power and limits our freedom in alarming ways, leaving us all worse off. Walmart tells its low-wage workers they cannot unionize; Walmart tells its suppliers they cannot survive unless they comply with draconian cost-cutting; Walmart tells communities they must accept that other retailers and grocery stores will go out of business; and Walmart tells consumers they can only have access to certain products, goods, and services.
Walmart is larger and more powerful than all its competitors combined, and wields more economic influence than many countries. Whatever Walmart does affects the entire retail industry and, indeed, the global economy. It has a long history of lowering standards for job quality and undermining responsible industry practices, forcing its competitors into a dangerous race to the bottom.
Walmart isn’t just a retail giant—it’s a bully that’s used to pushing people around and getting its way. But not in New York City: here the RWDSU, UFCW, and the Walmart Free NYC Coalition have used intense grassroots pressure to fight back and build a movement to keep Walmart out. The report released today from Food and Water Watch reminds us why we must stay vigilant in our opposition.
But we’re not just here to talk about what we’re against. We’re also here to talk about what we’re for—a vision of New York City that is shared by many residents across the five boroughs. Imagine a city with more good union jobs, more retail and grocery options in underserved areas, and a diverse marketplace in which more companies treat their suppliers and workers with respect and dignity.
That is the city we are focused on creating—the very same city Walmart is focused on destroying.
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