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32BJ supports fast food workers petition, announces candidate endorsements

Stephon Johnson | 5/18/2017, 1:14 p.m.
Monday, 32BJ joined fast food workers at City Hall to deliver 3,000 messages to the New York City Council calling ...
Fast food workers Mark Hill/CNN

Monday, 32BJ joined fast food workers at City Hall to deliver 3,000 messages to the New York City Council calling on council members to pass a law enabling industry workers to fund their own nonprofit organization with paycheck deductions. They also want the council to pass a law that requires employers to provide regular work schedules to help employees plan their lives better.

Others unions that showed support for this venture included 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Communications Workers of America District One, District Council 37, the Legal Services Staff Association, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the Professional Staff Congress and the NAACP New York State Conference.

“New York City fast food workers are asking the New York City Council to pass new bills that will protect workers from last minute scheduling practices that make it difficult for them to plan their lives and would allow them to make voluntary automatic contributions to a nonprofit organization of their choice that would fight to protect their rights, safeguard compliance with minimum wage increases and improve their communities,” read the petition.

Workers want the council to vote yes on a package of bills introduced in December known as the Fast Food Worker Empowerment Act. Under this law, workers would be able to tell their employers to make automatic regular contributions from their paychecks to a nonprofit organization of their choice.

“Most workers in the industry don’t have bank accounts so automatic paycheck deductions are the only way we can make regular contributions,” said Shantel Walker, a Brooklyn-based Papa John’s employee, in a statement. “Under current law, our employers could allow us to make those automatic deductions, but they know we are forming a strong nonprofit by workers and for workers so they won’t do it voluntarily. We need the Council to pass a law so our voices will be heard!”

As part of the package of bills, the Fair Work Week scheduling legislation would require fast-food employers to give workers two weeks’ advance notice on their schedule or pay a penalty for changes to their schedule with less than two weeks’ notice, and it would require employers to offer shifts in the store that become available to part-time workers before hiring new workers to fill them. The bill would also discourage the practice of workers starting the opening shift after working the closing shift the night before.

“We stand with fast-food workers in their fight to form their own nonprofit organization,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa in a statement. “They need to be able to come together in an organization that will help them fight for and enforce the changes they are winning for themselves and their families and helps them lift up their communities. When we pass this scheduling legislation, they want to have an organization that will help them ensure their employers follow the law.”

In other news, 32BJ announced their endorsements for New York City Council and for New York State special elections. For City Council districts 2, 4 and 8 in Manhattan, the union endorsed Carlina Rivera, Keith Powers and Diana Ayala, respectively. For City Council districts 12 and 13 in The Bronx and 23 in Queens, 32BJ endorsed incumbent Andy King, Mark Gjonaj and Barry Grodenchik. In Brooklyn City Council districts 43 and 44, the union endorsed Justin Brannan and David Greenfield.

“It is more important than ever to have local leaders who will stand up for working people. Our city and our state must focus on protecting the most vulnerable among us,” stated Figueroa. “These candidates have a history of standing up for working people, immigrant rights, good public education, affordable housing, criminal justice, police reform and other issues that are important to our members and their families. That’s why our members decided to endorse them.”