Yesterday evening, hundreds of fast food workers and striking Verizon employees joined Governor Andrew Cuomo to rally for New York's Fight for $15 movement in Times Square. The crowd celebrated the $15/hour wage raise in New York (up from $9) and rallied to support the movement in other parts of the country. "It's a beautiful day for a revolution," Bianca Cunningham, a Verizon employee told the crowd.
A year ago Governor Cuomo had sneered at the idea of a $15/hour minimum wage (“God bless them — shoot for the stars,” he said sarcastically) and he acknowledged the "important lesson" that he has since learned.
"You organize people around that dream, and you will see government follow," Cuomo said.
"Last year, I went to the legislature and said 'Raise the minimum wage.' It was $9 and I said I want to raise it to $10.50 and $11.50 and the legislature said no and they refused it. So, they knocked us down, okay, but we're New Yorkers. We get back up and what we did is we came back, we used gubernatorial powers."
Cuomo also told the crowd that "the middle class should be angry, because this new economy is not a fair economy."
"The middle class has been going backwards for decades. Working families have been going backwards for decades. The distribution of wealth is not fair in this country."
Referring to the Republican presidential candidates, who were a few blocks away giving speeches, Cuomo said that "they want to use that fear for political advantage, and they try to make us fight each other and worry about each other, and start to raise suspicions about people who are different."
Many in the crowd later marched to join the anti-Trump protestors outside Grand Central.
Rebecca Cornick, a Wendy's employee of about 10 years, said she thought Cuomo's support was "great, because we need all the support we can get."
Another food industry worker, Alvin Major, has four kids, two of whom are in college. This wage increase will help him pay the bills and take care of his kids. When asked about Cuomo's involvement, he said, "Before we started, from the inception there weren't many people on board. Now they're on board, and I'd like to thank Mr. Cuomo for being on board."
But Naquasia LeGrand, who has been involved since the first strikes in 2012, said, "Let's just say I'm glad he opened his eyes like any government official should. It's the reason for the government, you do it for the people."