Supporters ‘Fight for $15’ at Northampton City Hall

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz is the first to sign a petition supporting at $15 per hour minimum wage at a rally in front of City Hall Saturday. Rebecca Mullen

  • From left, Eric Bauer, Steve Wilson and Jennifer Corbin speak at a rally in support of a $15 per hour minimum wage on Saturday in front of Northampton City Hall. Rebecca Mullen

  • Supporters of a $15 per hour minimum wage rally in front of Northampton City Hall on Saturday. Rebecca Mullen

@RebeccaMMullen
Published: 9/16/2017 7:13:07 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Supporters of a $15 minimum wage rallied in front of the Northampton City Hall Saturday.

Mayor David Narkewicz joined local working people and activists in support of proposed state legislation that would raise the Massachusetts minimum wage to $15 per hour, increase the hourly wage of tipped workers and secure paid family and medical leave.

“These are two critical, critical things for workers and working families,” said Narkewicz to the crowd of about 30 people who came out in support of the two bills on Saturday afternoon.

Raise Up Massachusetts, a grassroots workers rights coalition, organized the event in Northampton along with three other rallies held in Greenfield, Amherst and Pittsfield this weekend to garner support (and signatures) for the bills.

Eric Bauer of Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, City Councilor Maureen Carney, Diana Sierra of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and representatives from the United Auto Workers Local 2322 spoke in addition to Narkewicz.

Bauer said that Jobs With Justice volunteers are hoping to get 120,000 signatures before the end of November so that the bills can be voted on in Fall of 2018. After the rally, volunteers fanned out around Northampton to gather signatures.

Currently, the Massachusetts minimum wage is $11 per hour. Someone working full time at minimum wage would make $22,880 a year, an amount, labor advocates say is not enough to afford basic necessities.

“There’s no reason why someone who’s working full time should also be struggling to afford their food, their rent and their bills,” Sierra said before the rally.

Increasing in the minimum wage and securing paid family leave would protect women specifically as they often bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities. Poor single mothers, are especially at risk, she continued, because they are forced to choose between caring for their children and earning money for their families.

“Domestic labor is real work,” Sierra said to the crowd. “Women must not risk their jobs to care for their families.”

UAW 2322 members Steve Wilson and Jennifer Corbin also took the stage to talk about their ongoing campaign to receive a living wage from their employer, Servicenet, a local organization that provides counseling and health services for people living with disabilities, mental illness and brain injury.

“Fifteen dollars an hour is a living wage,” Wilson said. “I can’t understand why we’re not getting it now.”

Corbin works as a counselor for Servicenet, where starting salary is minimum wage, $11 per hour. She works nurses hours, eight, 10 and 14 hour shifts. Most of their clients need full time care.

“We help them with everything. We shower them, we medicate them, we work ‘round the clock,” she said after the rally.

“Psychologically, it’s a hard job too,” she said. “It takes a lot of patience and kindness and compassion.”

Corbin said that one of her co-workers, a man she referred to as Tim, worked 60 hours some weeks to afford new shoes for his children.

“Financially, I can’t talk to anyone who I work with who doesn’t have trouble making ends meet,” Corbin said. “We work paycheck to paycheck. That’s us, that’s our life. It’s exhausting.”


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