Survivors, labor leaders and politicians came together on Saturday afternoon to commemorate the 73 employees of a World Trade Center restaurant who died on 9/11, and to call for improved conditions in the service industry nationwide.
The ceremony was as much a rally for workers’ rights as a solemn memorial for those who died at Windows on the World, which occupied the top floors of the North Tower.
“On 9/11 I lost three precious things,” said Fekkak Mamdouh, who worked at Windows on the World and is now senior director for One Fair Wage, the advocacy group that hosted the event.
“I lost my brothers and sisters that work with me. I lost my sense of security and safety as an Arab Muslim,” he said, “and I lost a good paying job.”
He and others criticized the $2.13 federal minimum wage for tipped workers — the same rate that existed in 2001 — calling it “subminimum.” (Federal law requires that tipped workers receive at least $7.25 an hour, but up to $5.12 of it can come from tips, leaving the employer to pay as little as $2.13.)
“We’ve heard the phrase ‘essential worker’ so often in the last year and a half, and we are truly going to recognize that this work is essential,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York. “We must do much more than words.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, echoed that sentiment.
“Coming here gives me strength to keep pushing one fair wage until we get it done in the United States Congress,” Mr. Schumer said. “When we make your lives better, we make New York better, we make America better.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thanked the service workers and advocates for “taking your grief and your loss and turning it into this movement,” and urged them to “keep going.”
Mr. Mamdouh and other former Windows on the World employees lit 20 candles and read aloud the names of the colleagues they lost.
Tez Termulo Boiz said she started working at Windows on the World as a college junior and essentially grew up there.
“When you hit something like the 20th, it really becomes a much bigger event, and reminding you what you lost,” said Ms. Boiz, who now works in finance and lives in New Jersey.
She had an even more basic request than a living wage: kindness.
“Don’t deny a tip. Don’t berate your server,” she said. “Be a decent human. That’s all we ask.”
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