Growing up, my mom had to work two or three jobs at a time, and still we sometimes found ourselves kicked out of our home or unable to pay our bills. Despite working 60 or 70 hours a week, the poverty-wages my mom earned simply weren’t enough for us to get by.
The only reason I’m here today is because my grandparents had the only union jobs in our small, upstate town. They were teachers who, though not wealthy, were frugal enough to take their middle-class salaries and save for a rainy day. It is their savings that saved my family from the cycle of poverty, debt, and dis-empowerment that too many in our community face.
I believe a living-wage is a fundamental right. Every individual who works full-time should earn enough to support themselves and their families.
City government cannot mandate that all business pay their workers a certain wage. But we do have a role to play.
By making our City more walkable and bikeable, we can give a competitive edge to our local businesses, which are far more likely to pay a living wage. Pedestrians will stop off at College Town Bagels, a living-wage employer, while drivers are more likely to go to the Burger King drive-through.
We can work with Cornell University and Ithaca College to make sure that the next business campus or small business incubator is within the City, so that we create those good-paying jobs here.
But City government cannot do this alone. However, we are fortunate in Ithaca to have a strong labor movement and active non-profit sector that advocates on behalf of working people.
I’m grateful to have the support of the UAW Local 2300 and look forward to working with all of our unions as mayor.
As Mayor I would strive to bring together the many sectors of our community to promote living-wage jobs and respect for workers.
This kind of collaboration is exemplified by the recent decision by Ithaca College’s food-service provider, Sodexo, to pay all of its workers on IC’s campus a living wage. Workers at IC and the Tompkins County Workers’ Center were able to put together a coalition of student advocates, local unions, and government officials to pressure a large, multi-national company to take seriously the rights of our community’s workers.
Because of their efforts, 150 members of our community will now have an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.
As Mayor I will continue to support this kind of initiative and search for new ways to work with Ithaca’s active, caring community to promote the rights of our workers.