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Anti-Hunger Groups Urge City Council To Pass Living Wage Bill

May 18, 2011
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Greater Need For Food Assistance Seen Among Working Poor Residents

Download the letter to Speaker Christine Quinn. New York, New York—Today the Living Wage NYC Coalition, along with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), announced that several organizations have formed an anti-hunger caucus to push for passage of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. Those organizations include: the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, the Food Bank For New York City, City Harvest, Hunger Action Network of New York State, and the Westside Campaign Against Hunger.

The announcement comes on the heels of last week’s City Council hearing on the legislation—which would establish a citywide living wage standard for jobs in taxpayer-subsidized economic development projects—and as these anti-hunger organizations assist an increasing number of working people who are not earning enough to afford food.

The anti-hunger organizations also sent a joint letter to New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn urging her to back the bill, which 30 City Council members currently support. In the letter, they thanked Speaker Quinn for her years of leadership on the fight against hunger and argued that the city must ensure public investments made on behalf of taxpayers create living wage jobs that benefit local residents. They pointed to an alarming hunger crisis among low-income New Yorkers.

“All too often, low-income New Yorkers are finding themselves having to choose between purchasing food or paying the bills that keep the roof over their heads and the lights on,” said Lucy Cabrera, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Food Bank For New York City. “Research by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and the Food Bank shows that 40 percent of low-income New Yorkers with household income of less than $25,000 have had to choose between paying for food and rent/mortgage, or food and utilities. “No one should have to face this choice,” she continued, “and a public investment in living wage jobs would mean fewer people will need to.”

"The single best way to reduce hunger is to ensure that all people working full-time earn enough to feed their families and meet all other basic needs,” said Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “While a number of bold steps are needed to return America to a time of living wage jobs, passing the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act in the City Council is one immediate step."

“With a record number of working New Yorkers relying on food stamps and emergency food assistance in order to survive, it’s clear that the city is not doing nearly enough to create living wage jobs,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “That’s why a diverse citywide coalition of many thousands of New Yorkers is actively pushing for passage of this living wage bill.”

"As many as 40 percent of our guests have jobs but don't make enough to make ends meet. The reality is that the minimum wage has become a poverty wage,” said Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of New York State. “Everyone agrees that those who work should make enough to support their families. For more than fifteen years Hunger Action has helped pass living wage laws in communities across the state. It is time to require that jobs created through tax subsidies lift our communities up rather than add more people to the soup kitchen lines."

“Twenty-four percent of the 9,000 households who come to West Side Campaign Against Hunger for emergency food are working people do not earn sufficient to meet their basic needs”, said Doreen Wohl, Executive Director of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger. “These are people working as cashiers, child care providers, cleaners and maintenance workers, factory workers, in food service, as home attendants, and in retail. Fifty-nine percent of customer households have a weekly income between zero and $200 a week, another twenty-eight percent have incomes between $201 and $400 a week. After paying rent little is left for food.”

"More and more people are coming to our soup kitchen and food pantry, particularly families with small children,” said Rev. Susie Eliot of Mt. Paran Baptist Church in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, who is also the President of the Brooklyn Council of Churches. “We see people who are working who come in to supplement what they are able to buy. If they were paid a living wage they would be able to provide more for their families and not have to depend on our soup kitchen or food pantry."