Fast Food Workers Celebrate Win In Fight For $15

Jul 22, 2015

The sign they hold reads, "Rochester can't work on poverty wages: Fight for $15 and union rights!"

Proponents of the Fight for $15 movement were rewarded today by a recommendation from Governor Cuomo's wage board, and fast food workers in Rochester are celebrating.

The wage board recommends that by the end of 2021, fast food companies with 30 or more establishments pay their workers $15 an hour across the state. Fast food employees and supporters gathered outside a McDonalds on Culver Avenue to cheer the decision.

Alexsandra Candelaria has become a de facto spokesperson for the movement around here. She says this decision means she might be able to drop one of her three jobs, or maybe go back to school.

"I'm at a loss for words I guess, because I always knew we would get what we wanted because we pushed for it, we kept fighting, we kept going and didn't give up, but for it to be actually here... There is no amount of time, and no matter how ready I actually was for it it's still completely shocking."

The Fight for $15 isn't universally popular: Some people wonder why fast food workers deserve higher pay than other minimum wage workers. Others think these wages could affect a company's bottom line.

Candelaria says she's unfazed by the criticism.

"Fast food is a $123 billion industry, and you tell me you can't pay me enough to pay my bills? That's crazy. That's what I would say to those people."

When the cheering and celebrating is over, Candelaria says they already have a new goal to work toward: union rights.

The increase will happen gradually over the next six years, finally reaching $15 by December 31, 2021.