ITHACA, N.Y. — Dozens of people gathered in the pouring rain Tuesday in downtown Ithaca to demand a mandatory living wage for workers in Tompkins County.

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Cars honked as demonstrators carried signs and chanted for a minimum  wage increase in Tompkins County to $14.34. The event was part of a National Day of Action, meant to raise awareness about the cause.

“There’s  a national movement around this issue,” organizer Pete Meyers, coordinator at the Tompkins County Worker’s Center, said. “A year ago, people would have thought we were crazy.”

But since fast food workers across the nation began rallying for higher wages, some officials have responded in support of all low wage workers.

For instance, on Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that minimum wage for all state workers would be increased to $15 an hour,  making New York the first state in the nation to have a public sector minimum wage set at $15. About 10,000 state employees will benefit from the increase.

Cuomo said in a statement, “Today in New York, we are leading by example and creating an economy that is defined by opportunity, not inequality. We are restoring the fairness and economic justice that built the American dream and standing up for what’s right. I am proud of what we continue to accomplish, because New Yorkers deserve nothing less.”

The move follows the $15 minimum wage increase for fast food workers approved by the Governor’s administration earlier this year, which could impact about 200,000 fast food workers.

At the Ithaca event, four members of the Macabre Theatre Ensemble paid homage to fast food workers who helped launch the campaign for highers wages with a performance piece.

Lined at their feet were condiments, pudding and apple sauce that anyone who donated a meager amount of money — in once instance 12 cents — could smear on the Ithaca College students.

Cat Proulx, 20, said she and others at the ensemble wanted to support the movement both because of personal experiences in the service industry and because people who work for minimum wage can’t stand up for themselves because they rely on the money they make to survive.

“Employers are doing whatever they want to do and justifying their actions,” she said, standing with Hannah Paquette, Alistair Bennie Underwood, and Sarah Chaneles as people poured apple sauce into their hands and pudding in their mouths.

Meyers said the theater ensemble was a perfect demonstration for the injustices low-wage workers face by employers.

“It’s a great thing that they’re doing. We can shit on low wage workers,” he said about what the piece shows.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.