Stanley McPherson has been in Ithaca for four years, trying to find decent employment while building a supportive community for himself. He loves writing and learning about the law and has taken classes in legal research and journalism. Stanley’s dream is to someday have law credentials to take cases to any court.
Stanley is an involved member of the Baptized Church of Jesus Christ, located on First Street in Ithaca. He can be found there many days of the week; he plays bass or drums every Sunday for worship. He attends prayer meetings at night. He helps out at the food pantry, often unloading trucks of thousands of pounds of food for the pantry after work. He rakes leaves, cuts the lawn – you name it: at his church, Stanley lends a hand. “I was led here,” Stanley says.
Although you might think Stanley has no time for any other activities, he squeezes everything he can from his free time. He helps Reverend Benson of the baptized Church with his weekly Public Access TV show, Hour for Christ. It is a gospel show and Stanley works behind the scenes in production. Stanley and a friend, Milton Webb, created their own Cable Access TV show, called “What Matters/Living Wages at the Roundtable.” The message of the show, Stanley says, is “We’re working hard, give us the wages.”
In August of 2012, Stanley and his co-worker Milton Webb called the Workers’ Center with a concern about their job. They were employed at the Tompkins County Solid Waste Facility. While this sounds like they would be working for the County, in reality, they were working for a sub-contractor, called ReCommunity Recycling, and not being paid a living wage. The Legislature had expressed a commitment to a Living Wage for ten years and yet these contracted workers were not receiving that wage. (They were placed at that job by Kelly Temp Services, making $8/hr, then were hired by ReCommunity at $9/hr after 7 months.)
Once this particular issue was brought to its attention by Stanley and Milton, the Workers’ Center got into gear. We simultaneously mobilized our membership and approached the County Legislature to see what they were going to do about it. The Workers’ Center organized rallies, attendance at multiple County Board meetings, and circulated a petition which garnered 1,157 signatures. This is the kind of day-to-day, month-to-month legwork which your support helps facilitate.
The County looked into their policies and in October 2013, they moved to set aside $100,000 into a contingency fund specifically earmarked for bringing Tompkins County sub-contractors up to the Alternatives Federal Credit Union Living Wage standard. The County Administrator, Joe Mareane, estimates that it could cost $1-2 million to bring all County-contracted workers up to a living wage. (We don’t currently know how many workers this would benefit. This year has been dedicated to the County actually studying the issue by asking all Contractors how many people aren’t making a living wage.) This victory is surely a synergy of workers coming forward and being supported by the Workers’ Center, which then creates a visible, public campaign as needed.
The TCWC will continue to work on this issue as time moves forward and we will need your support on this in terms of helping to apply pressure to County Legislators to actually allocate the money that went into the Living Wage Contingency Fund, as well as gradually increase the money that goes into the Fund!
Temp workers are a growing segment of the US economy, usually making low wages and receiving no benefits or job security. Some companies are using so-called temp workers almost exclusively to staff their operations, throwing thousands of employees into near minimum wage jobs. This is a trend that we must challenge in the coming months and years in order to make the economy work for all of us.