When a Community takes Action, Legislators Follow

The first time I watched legislators was when Senator O’Brien voted against the Dream Act this past session.  Later that week I understood that his vote was a result of quick counting.  The votes were not there to pass the legislation, with or without his vote, therefore he voted against it.  This is when it hit me, to achieve Metro Justice’s goals of economic, racial, and social justice it’s not enough to raise our voice on issues we care.  Not only do we need to pressure our local officials, but we also need to build a space where voting in favor of our issues is the only option.  New York needs electoral victories to achieve our visions for a better future.

Primarily, Metro Justice is working on the Fight for 15/Lucha Por 15.  This effort engages and encourages fast food workers to stand for the fair wage of $15 an hour, a union, and a real voice in the workplace.  This is a new challenge for our members, we are organizing Rochestarians and empowering them; instead of advocating for an issue, or a third party.  With this new approach, legislative campaigns are only one of the tools used to engage workers, and their allies throughout the state.

When workers and community allies take action, new legislative opportunities are created, which in turn, produce the opportunity for new movements.  I believe it’s not a coincidence that we are again talking about raising minimum wage, even though it was recently raised to $8 an hour.  The origin of the new call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, with index to inflation is rooted in the state and national organizing being done by fast food workers.

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Global “Fight for 15” Comes Home

By Joan Collins Lambert 

Through the “Fight for 15” campaign, Metro Justice is bringing the global struggle for fast food workers to Rochester, and not a minute too soon.

            Eight months ago -- as the fast food worker movement continued to build momentum in New York and Chicago -- the Rochester Area Foundation caused a stir when it issued a report saying that Rochester is the fifth poorest city in the country. The study recommended three solutions, including “reducing the academic achievement gap,” “fostering racial understanding,” and “building awareness” to “encourage economic and community development.”

            Of course, you can publish all the reports you want, and build all the awareness and racial understanding in the world, but people won’t stop being poor until they’re paid higher wages, and they won’t get higher wages until they demand them for themselves, collectively. As Metro Justice’s Organizing Director Colin O’Malley has pointed out, it’s not that more of Rochester-area’s poor are out of work, because our unemployment level is slightly lower than the national average. People are poor because they aren’t paid enough for the work they do.

            Fast food’s biggest corporation, McDonald’s, publicly admitted it was paying poverty wages to its front-line employees last year when it published on its website some Dickensian advice on how to get by on McDonald’s wages -- advice that assumed a second job, and included applying for public assistance, turning your heat down in the winter, and taking smaller bites of food to make it last longer. (They forgot to include “Master the art of dumpster diving.”)

            Under the “Fight for 15” banner, fast food workers have kept their demands simple: $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. As the momentum has grown, so have the objections: If fast food corporations have to pay $15 an hour, they’ll have to lay people off. They’ll replace workers with robots. It will lead to inflation. Only teenagers will benefit. The price of a Big Macs and Taco Supremes will skyrocket. McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King will go out of business. All hell will break loose and the sky will fall.

Of course, for many of us in the 99%, the sky has already fallen, which is why the average age of fast food workers has risen from age 22 in 2000 to age 29.5 today. So, no -- most fast food workers aren’t teenagers. Seventy percent are age 20 or older. Almost 40 percent are 25 or older. More than 30 percent have at least some college experience, and more than 25 percent have children, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.            

            As for all those other objections, I think we can all rest assured that fast food corporations won’t go out of business any time soon, even if they do the right thing and raise their wages to $15 an hour. According to a report published by the economic think tank Demos, the fast food industry has the worst pay disparity of all our economic sectors. In 2012, Demos reports, the compensation of fast food CEOs was more than 1,200 times the earnings of the average fast food worker, which is “considerably out of line with the rest of the economy.”

            Adjusted for inflation, wages for front-line fast food workers in the United States have dropped by 36 cents an hour since 2010, while fast food corporations have made record-breaking profits in the same period.

            Meanwhile, in Europe, where labor unions are accepted as rightful participants in the economy, McDonald’s workers make considerably more than $15 an hour -- and somehow, by some magic, McDonald’s has a higher profit margin there than it does in the United States.           

            It’s misleading to characterize all fast food restaurants as mom-and-pop operations. According to the McDonald’s website, “Generally, we require a minimum of $750,000 of non-borrowed personal resources to consider you for a franchise,” and they don’t let you count the value of your home in that formula. So, yeah - if Mom and Pop have three quarters of a million dollars lying around, maybe you could call it that. (McDonald’s, by the way, has reported that most franchisees own multiple restaurants.)

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Naquasia LeGrand Speaks at Metro Justice Annual Dinner

This year's Annual Dinner speaker did more than tell us about some important issues faced in today's world. She helped to introduce us to a growing movement that Metro Justice will be taking part in this year. Last year, she spoke on the Colbert Report about the Fight for 15, a growing movement of fast food workers demanding $15/hr and a union in the entire industry. Video of her presentation at the Annual Dinner can be found below.

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Flash Auction! "Buy" Silent Auction Items before the Dinner!

We have an exciting new proposition for this years Annual Dinner!  We have so many Silent Auction items, that we don't think we are going to be able to fit all of them on the table!  Here is your chance to get an item you may be waiting on, before the dinner even begins!

To give you a taste of the kind of items that you will be able to bid on at the dinner, we are giving you the chance to bid and buy now!  This is only 6 of the many items that will be at the dinner!  See one that you want now?  Be the first one to respond to this email, and it's yours for the "buy it now" price!

Item: Juggling Lessons
Offered By: Jack Mould
Buy It Now Price: $50

Have you always wanted to know how to juggle? Then this is the item for you! Jack Mould is offering to teach YOU how to juggle! He's such a great teacher; he'll help you get better than he is! Do you want this item? Be the first to email [email protected] and we'll give it to you for the "buy it now" price!

Item: What's your personality type according to the Enneagram? - 3 Sessions
Offered By: Lieve Bain
Buy It Now Price: $75

We all have different traits that make us who we are. It would be so interesting to find out what makes you YOU. What differentiates you from others? Finding out which type of personality you have could help you figure out how to make decisions to enhance your life. Do you want this item? Be the first to email [email protected] and we'll give it to you for the "buy it now" price!

Item: One-Way Ride to/from Airport
Offered By: Beth Myers
Buy It Now Price: $35

Ever get stuck at the airport waiting for a ride? Or ever have trouble parking your car in the lot so you were late checking in, therefore rushed to your plane? Don’t have to worry about that if you get a ride there, just get dropped off and you’re good to go. Or have a ride waiting for you when your plane lands so it’s ready when you are so you get home easily. Do you want this item? Be the first to email [email protected] and we'll give it to you for the "buy it now" price!

Item: 2 Hour Package of IT Consulting
Offered By: Kaeri Carroll
Buy It Now Price: $175

Technology can be tough! But they don't have to be! Receive 2 hours of Kaeri's consulting, where she can help you with a range of technology and computer issues. She can help you with tasks from setting up a wireless network to managing and uploading photos. She can help you with whatever is on your computer/technology needs wish list! Do you want this item? Be the first to email [email protected] and we'll give it to you for the "buy it now" price!

Item Offered: 2 Knitting Lessons with a Felted Item
Offered By: Sheila Smyth
Buy It Now Price: $45

Knitting can be calming and relaxing and the result can even be wearable! These two knitting lessons can get you in the groove of knitting all sorts of things! You can even learn how to felt a knitted item, which can make it even more creative! Do you want this item? Be the first to email [email protected] and we'll give it to you for the "buy it now" price!

Item Offered: 1 Hour Massage
Offered By: Steve Clidas
Buy It Now Price: $100

Spend one full hour having your worries being washed away with this massage. Massage has been shown to help reduce stress, muscle tension, and pain, which we all have after that long work week. This soothing massage can help you unwind! Do you want this item? Be the first to email [email protected] and we'll give it to you for the "buy it now" price!

Interested in any of these items? Let us know now!  Don't let someone buy it first!  This exciting time will only last until this Saturday!  Want an item or have any questions? 

Meet the Metro Justice Annual Dinner Awardees

This year’s Annual Dinner, which is just around the corner, is going to be the biggest and the most exciting Dinner yet!
We are celebrating the work of two very special women who have worked hard over the years to fight for progressive causes in our community.  

Alison Clarke’s career and volunteerism have focused on community, non-profit work. Not only is she the founder of the former Rochester Peace & Justice Education Center, which evolved with Metro Act into Metro Justice but she is also the founder and former chairwoman of the Canandaigua-based Center for Sustainable Living. Alison spends much of her time these days coordinating the NY Small Scale Food Processors’ Association, which she helped found over 10 years ago. We are so thankful for Alison’s infinite energy toward sustainability and social justice causes.

Paula Hansen will receive our member award for the work that she has done over the years at Metro Justice during her time on council and as President.  Paula Hansen began her work going door-to-door and educating residents on lead testing in Monroe County and morphed into a tireless leader who has since led Metro Justice toward growth.  Although she is no longer President, she continues to work with staff and volunteers to ensure that all of our campaigns and events (including the Annual Dinner) run smoothly.  We are so thankful for the work she has done over the years.      

Meet the Annual Dinner Speakers!

This year we have two very exciting dinner speakers--Bill Samuels and Naquasia LeGrand!  Although from two very different backgrounds, both have interesting perspectives and are both leaders in LARGE MOVEMENTS.  They are movers and shakers ready to change the status quo.  We are very excited to have them speak at our dinner. 

Bill_Samuels.jpgBill Samuels has a lifetime of experience as an innovative political thinker, activist, successful businessman & CEO.

Bill’s father, Howard Samuels, was a leader in New York state politics and served as Undersecretary of Commerce & Director of the Small Business Administration for President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Bill political activism began raising money to finance the 1971 Vietnam Veterans Against the War March on Washington, one of the pivotal moments in the anti-Vietnam War movement.

In 2010, Bill launched the New Roosevelt Initiative, a multi-year campaign to achieve critical reforms in New York’s fiscal practices, ethics rules, redistricting policies & campaign finance.

He currently is Chairman of EffectiveNY an organization bringing in the best of progressive politics, policy & advocacy to drive solutions that repair our government & make New York work for all of us.

Naquasia.jpgNaquasia LeGrand was frying chicken, sweeping floors and serving customers for $7.25 an hour when she was recruited by union organizers to join a campaign for higher pay.

After sixteen months and participating in five strikes backed by the SEIU and the local NY Communities for Change group, Naquasia has become New York City’s face of a growing national movement that has staged strikes across the country demanding a $15-an-hour wage and union representation for fast-food workers.

Just last January, she promoted the Fight for 15 on “The Colbert Report,” joined a strategy session with congressional Democrats and visited President Barack Obama.

After speaking at a workshop on raising the minimum wage, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota described Naquasia as the leader in the movement for better pay for low wage workers: “Movements will throw up leaders [...]This low-wage worker movement has thrown up Naquasia.”

Naquasia became a labor activist after hearing so many stories from co-workers describing how difficult it was to pay the bills. In a city where $1,500 for a one-bedroom apartment is the norm, it’s difficult to comprehend how service-sector employees being paid minimum wage can make it here.


Although we've sold out of tickets, you can still make a contribution to Metro Justice.  Help us offset the costs of our biggest fundraiser of the year!  Donate today.

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Local Billionaire donates his riches to Metro Justice


richguy.jpgThe 1% doesn't want to challenge the status quo--they benefit from it.  Each year, they earn more while the rest of us can't make ends meet.  Do you think they want to change the system that puts them on top while we struggle at the bottom? 

Every day, Metro Justice fights to dismantle the system that keeps the 1% on top.  Metro Justice members are strategically planning and passionately fighting to make the dream of social justice a reality. We have been for almost 50 years. Metro Justice demands:   

  • That New York end discrimination and inequality based on gender and restore New York as a leader in women’s rights through the Women’s Equality Act, 
  • That all students have the right to quality public education that serves them and their communities, 
  • An end of illegal bank foreclosures in the City of Rochester, 
  • The passing of genuine universal healthcare in New York State, 
  • A living wage and stronger unions, and 
  • Improvements to Social Security, the American Worker’s safety net.

We don't need the help of Local Billionaires to strengthen our movements, we have the power of the people.  This power is much stronger than any other organization out there.  No large donors mean that we'll always be free challenge inequities affect. No powerful donor will ever threaten to back out because they don't like our work. No politician can cut off our funding. YOU ensure our voices are loud and our power is strong.

Revitalizing the US Labor Movement

bill_fletcher.jpgOn March 8th, I had the opportunity to go to Buffalo for the Western New York Area Labor Federation's Annual Meeting. Having worked alongside many of the people in that room for years, when I was younger (and even more obnoxious) was a great feeling. The labor movement in Buffalo is really where I got my introduction to social justice, working for the Coalition for Economic Justice when I was 17. 

This year's speaker, Bill Fletcher Jr., spoke in Buffalo a few years ago when I was organizing alongside janitors at the University at Buffalo as part of United Students Against Sweatshops. Both times I've seen him, he has been an incredibly powerful orator. Both times, he has been so close to the pulse of the US Labor Movement and known just how to push it in a more clear, more effective, and more radical direction. 

Luckily, Rochester Indymedia was present to film his entire speech, which you can find below. His analysis of the history of the labor movement, the strategic mistakes and defeats of our past, and the problems of our own internal ideology is put in such clear terms that I think any of us can understand. More importantly, it helps to point out a direction for our day-to-day organizing to help genuinely revitalize a workers movement in the United States.

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15 Reasons Why We Need the Women's Equality Act!


For this year's International Women's Day, Metro Justice members, supporters, and staff shared why they need the Women's Equality Act in New York State!

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Metro Justice Silent Service Auction!




Each year, members can donate a service auctioned off during the Annual Dinner Reception. These services range from knitting lessons, dinner for four, and/or a plane trip over the Finger Lakes! We invite you to offer one of your many talents or services for bidding. As you can see from the attached flyer, the offerings are varied and tempting. Don’t be shy! Let your imagination run wild as you think of a service you can offer that will generate funds for Metro Justice.



Click the photo above or the link below to enter your information into the form:

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