Fight for $15 Movement Hits Iowa
Above Photo: A group of fast-food workers, home care and child care workers, and community supporters protest outside of Capital Square on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, before marching to the steps of the Iowa Events Center where the final GOP debate before the Iowa Caucus was being held. The workers were fighting for a higher minimum wage and a union. Kelsey Kremer/The Register
DesMoines, IA – An international underpaid workers strike visited Iowa for the first time Thursday, the day of the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses.
Some 150 workers in fast food, child care and other low-wage industries took over westbound East University Avenue during the lunch hour. Bearing signs and yelling, “We work. We sweat. Put 15 on our checks,” marchers flushed-out the drive-thru lane of a McDonald’s.
A Des Moines police car arrived at McDonald’s after the group made its third circle around the restaurant, flashing its lights and sirens. It trailed the group, which completed its rotation then moved onto the sidewalk. No arrests were made, according to group leaders.
The movement’s noon demonstration was the second of three Thursday. The group also plans to picket outside the Iowa Events Center, where Republican presidential candidates will take the debate stage once more before the Iowa caucuses on Monday.
Terrance Wise, a 36-year-old fast food employee from Kansas City, said workers deserve a $15 minimum wage and a union.
“We are taking to the streets to make the public aware of our plight,” Wise said.
After 11 years at Burger King and three at McDonald’s, Wise says he only makes $8 an hour. His wife has worked 12 years in the home health care industry but still makes only $10 an hour.
“We’ve been homeless while working with three kids,” Wise said. “These are things we parents are fed up with.”
Most of these protesters are workers from these low-paying industries who handed their bosses a strike notice and left work to march, a representative from Fight for $15 said.
Angelica Serrano, 45, a Des Moines resident and a 17-year McDonald’s employee, did just that.
“When I started to work, they only paid me $6.50 an hour,” Serrano said. “And they’ve only increased my pay to $9.90.”
Serrano is supporting three children and a grandson but all her money goes toward rent and bills.
She actually works at the very McDonald’s the protest targeted Thursday afternoon. But she’s not afraid of losing her job.
“We are protected and there’s a lot of support with all of the people here in Des Moines and other workers,” Serrano said.
Many workers said they had not which presidential candidate to support.
“I’m watching for whoever will support $15 wages most and they have my vote,” Serrano said.
Wiley King, 30, of Des Moines agreed. King got his high school diploma, had some college and job training but after an injury, ended up working at Wendy’s for $8 an hour.
He’s been up since 3 a.m., organizing and protesting with Fight for $15.
“We shouldn’t be in poverty. We should be able to afford a place to live, transportation, education, insurance,” King said. “We’re going to support the candidate that supports us. We are the people and we deserve the American dream.”