NEW YORK — Saying that everyone who works in the field of finance and banking deserves a living high wage, employees from New York’s financial district are striking this week in support of a $150 hourly minimum wage.
About 12,000 protesters dressed in suits took to the streets of lower Manhattan on Wednesday, vowing to not make any trades, open new commercial accounts, or even prepare a single risk-analysis spreadsheet until they are guaranteed fair remuneration for the long hours they put in sitting in front of computer screens.
“A lot of us have demanding families, spouses who want a second vacation home, daughters who don’t have the same designer purses as the other girls,” said Gus van der Woerd, 35, who struggles to make payments on his four-bedroom apartment overlooking Central Park. “There’s no reason why an investment banker who works full-time in a private equity firm shouldn’t be able to fly first-class to the Maldives once a year to spend a week at a five-star resort.”
“For many of these workers, the fight for a living high wage is not about getting rich,” said Saskia Deauville, a 42-year-old former portfolio manager who now runs an advocacy group that fights to improve working conditions for the city’s mistreated bankers. “It’s about fairness, about getting compensated for the billions of dollars we’re moving around the global economy, about being able to enjoy a simple cocaine-fuelled weekend of partying at the Hamptons every now and again.”
Critics of raising the minimum wage in the finance and banking sector say that even if the average first-year commodity trader only earns $45 an hour, that’s more than enough to lease an Audi A6 and have lunch at fancy bistros every day.
“We just need to let the free market dictate how much these folks are paid,” said Robert Haussmann, 67, a retired banker specializing in mergers and acquisitions who says he worked his way up from a measly salary of $39,000 a year back in 1983 to $3.5 million, plus stock options and bonuses, upon his retirement in 2012. “Fair is fair.”