Kitted out in shirts proclaiming "Fight for $15 and a Union for Everyone," NYSUT School-Related Professionals and educators from Special Act, 853 and 4201 Schools and Head Start programs from across the state met with lawmakers to give names and faces to the movement for a new state minimum wage.
Joyce Dziekonski, a teacher aide for 18 years and member of the North Rose-Wolcott Service Employees Association, spoke movingly about joining the workforce after her son was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
"I did it to make ends meet back then, and I'm still working to make ends meet now." In fact, she works a second job, and still struggles.
Penny Vanderlinde, a member of the Wayne-Finger Lakes Association of School Support Personnel, told lawmakers she also relies on her second job as a real estate agent, though she makes money only when she sells a house — no small feat in this economy.
Donna Arno, also a WFLA member, is concerned that many of her fellow SRPs would like to "be working toward a degree to better themselves, but don't have time to go to school because of having to work extra jobs."
Assemblyman Harry Bronson, D-Rochester, openly supportive of the Fight for $15, was eager to hear the stories, and tell one himself. Bronson overhead a colleague disparage the movement to raise the minimum wage because "minimum wage jobs are almost all entry-level."
Bronson replied, "You tell the paraprofessionals in the room they're working in an entry-level job. You tell them they don't deserve a living wage. I disagree with all of those things. I think paraprofessionals, all of you, deserve a living wage."
— Tess Thapalia
Focus on women's issues
Did you know?
On average, women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. The cumulative effects show the impact of the gender pay gap even when women work full-time throughout their lives:
- In one year, a woman earns $5,000 less;
- In a lifetime, a woman, by age 65, earns $413,000 less.
April 12 is Equal Pay Day, which marks how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. Mark the date by wearing red to show how far women and minorities are "in the red" with their pay.
— NYSUT's Women's Steering Committee