Workers Vow to Keep Fighting Following Historic Wins for $15/Hour
In the wake of historic victories for $15/hour stretching from coast to coast in the past week, workers in the Fight for $15 vowed to keep fighting as they prepare for their biggest-ever strike on April 14: Brooklyn KFC worker Alvin Major explained on WNYC Monday, “Our demand was for $15 and union rights – not $15 or union rights.”
McDonald’s worker Naquasia LeGrand, who was among the 200 fast-food workers who walked off the job for the first time in New York City in November 2012, stressed on the Diane Rehm Show Monday that the movement will not stop until all underpaid workers win $15 and union rights: “There are workers out there on the front line who are trying to make it to happen for them. And, you know, we’re not going to stop until all 64 million workers [paid less than $15/hour] around this country get $15 and the union.”
How Did $15/Hour Become Mainstream?
After California and New York officially made $15/hour the law of the land on Monday, pundits and observers around the country turned their attention to the workers who made these historic wage increases possible:
Under the headline, “How a $15 Minimum Wage Went from ‘Extreme’ to Enacted,” Katrina vanden Heuvel answers this question in a Washington Post column Tuesday: “The idea moved only because workers and allies organized and demanded the change. What the activists and low-wage workers have shown with their fight for $15 is that the changes we need will come if people organize and force them.”
Two Fight for $15 leaders from New York and California – Manhattan McDonald’s worker Jorel Ware and LA McDonald’s worker Anggie Godoy – wrote in the Huffington Post this week about how speaking out on the job created real change in their states: “Since the time when we each first joined the Fight for $15, we have learned that the way working people win justice is by joining together and taking a stand. Our wins this week from coast to coast show more than anything the power of workers organizing.”
And in the LA Times on Monday, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry summarized how workers have flipped the politics of the country by going on strike and speaking out: “The fearlessness of the workers has made elected officials understand that there is huge wind at their back. We’re proud that it created a situation where both New York and California were dueling at the same time. […] It’s how the movement has created more than we even imagined possible before.”
Democratic Heavyweights ♥ $15/Hour
With a $15/hour wage becoming the new benchmark for decent pay in America, elected leaders coast to coast are now rushing to best each other in a race to raise pay: The LA Times wrote Monday, “Anyone unconvinced about a New York-California rivalry had some tough evidence to overcome Monday, as both states moved to enact minimum wage hikes to $15 an hour, the highest in the country, within hours of one another.”
And across the country, Democratic heavyweights are hailing $15/hour as a model for the rest of the country:
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “By moving to a $15 statewide minimum wage…New York is showing the way forward on economic justice. This minimum wage increase will be of national significance.”
Hillary Clinton, at Monday’s bill singing in NYC: “I know it’s going to sweep our country. It shows the world what kind of community we are, and what we can get done when we work together.”
Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown: “I’m hoping that what happens in California will not stay in California but spread all across the country.”
Bernie Sanders, at a rally in Laramie, Wyo. Tuesday: “If we were here in this auditorium five years ago and somebody were to jump up and say, ‘You know, I think a $7.25 federal minimum wage is a starvation wage, and it’s gotta be raised to $15/hour,’ the person next to them would have said ‘You’re nuts.’ […] But then what happened is fast food workers – people working at McDonald’s, people working at Burger King, people working at Wendy’s – they went on strike. And they fought and they fought…and in the last several weeks in both California and New York, governors signed legislation for $15 an hour.”
Wonks for $15/Hour
Growing numbers of policy wonks have also weighed in this week to dismiss the sky-is-falling rhetoric raised by opponents to a $15/hour wage:
Pointing to an oft-cited benchmark for setting the minimum wage as 50% of the median wage, David Goldstein, a Senior Fellow at Civic Ventures, writes this week, “As for [the] assertion that $15 as a percent of the median hourly wage would be ‘unprecedented;’ yeah, maybe, but really, not by all that much. And should we even care? Even if the 50 percent benchmark had a rational justification once upon a time, given the enormous changes to our economy over the past half-century, it’s no longer clear that minimum-to-median remains a relevant index even for purposes of comparison.”
Jeff Spross makes a similar argument in The Week on Thursday under the headline, “Why a $15 Minimum Wage Won’t Unleash Jobs Armageddon.”
Demand for $15/Hour Grows Nationwide
Duke University – Students at Duke University who have been protesting for improved working conditions for campus employees rejected an offer from the administration on Thursday to boost the university’s minimum wage to $12/hour, deciding instead to hold out for their original demand for $15/hour.
Boston, Mass. – Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Monday called for making the Bay State the next to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, weeks after endorsing a $15/hour wage for the city of Boston.
Kansas City, Mo – Mayor Sly James issued an official proclamation this week supporting the local Fight for $15 chapter Stand Up KC as workers prepare to walk off the job on April 14 as part of the Fight for $15’s biggest-ever strike. Stand Up KC workers also received a resolution of support from the Jackson County legislature during their session this week.
PA Nursing Home Workers Win $15
Thousands of nursing home workers at 42 facilities across Pennsylvania who have been bargaining union contracts since January won $15 an hour in their new agreements announced Wednesday, marking the latest in a string of $15/hour victories in the past week.
Dana Roscoe, a CNA from Bethel Park, said Wednesday: “It’s difficult to describe how exciting it feels that we won $15 an hour in our new union contract. Nursing home work is extremely hard and extremely important. This is the first step in helping turn this job into a career for me and for so many other caregivers across the state.”
And The Nation perhaps summed up the week best with the following headline: “We Are Winning the Fight for $15.” Writer Michelle Chen quotes Fight for $15 Organizing Director Kendall Fells, “Unofficially, these workers already feel like they’re a part of a union. [T]he labor movement is beginning to look different with all of these industries of workers coming together to create broader change…. There are various paths to getting a union, but the best way to get a union is by acting like you already have a union.”