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Rochester workers deserve a $15 minimum wage

Rochester workers deserve a $15 minimum wage

One of the key planks of the People’s Platform released by Communities United for Rochester Empowerment (CURE) last week is the fight for a $15 minimum wage, along with other priorities for working families such as paid sick leave, paid maternity leave and health insurance.

The fight for a $15 minimum is a national campaign but CURE is bringing that fight to Rochester, following in the footsteps of Minneapolis, St. Paul and countless cities across the country.

As Rochester’s major employer, Mayo Clinic, continues its DMC project, as rents and property prices continue to rise and affordable, accessible housing becomes scarcer, it is ordinary people who are being left behind and pushed to the margins.

The City fathers know this and have not taken any substantive action, in spite of numerous reports that have crossed their desks. CURE’s actions in this area forced Mayo Clinic, Rochester Area Foundation, City Council and others to recognize the urgency of this crisis but they still seem to be ignoring the full extent of the problem.

Part of the solution is to pay workers a wage that will allow them to take part in this grand experiment that we call DMC where an estimated 20,000 new residents will flock to Rochester.

Will we attract them with a low-wage economy? Will we attract them with an affordable housing crisis? Are we saying, you can work here, but you can’t live here? Is this what the City is telling the workers it will need for its shiny new hotels, restaurants, bars, apartment complexes and medical facilities?

The nature of work has changed. Entry-level, minimum wage jobs are no longer the preserve of young kids trying to pay their way through college. These jobs support families where it takes two, sometimes even three, jobs to make ends meet.

We cannot keep asking people, on one hand, to accept jobs at minimum wage and then condemn them when they need programs like WIC and SNAP to feed them.

Not only do we need a $15 minimum wage but families need paid sick leave and other benefits that allow us to live safe and healthy lives. In a city housing the world’s leading healthcare operator, it is ironic that many workers in the city cannot afford to take a day off when they, or someone they are caring for, get sick!

When the city of Rochester passes a $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave and other parts of CURE's People's Platform, it will mean that low- and moderate-income families will finally start having a real chance to move forward and be part of the success that Rochester has seen over the last decade.

Brian Faloon is a Rochester resident and a member of Communities United for Rochester Empowerment.

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