Workers across the United States have walked off their jobs this Labor Day as non-unionized minimum wage workers join the “Fight for $15” to raise the nation’s minimum wage to match the cost of living.
Over 300 cities joined the protests, with workers' strikes beginning at 6 a.m. in cities like Boston, Richmond, Chicago, New Orleans, Milwaukee, and San Diego, among others, to protest the country’s US$7.25 federal minimum wage.
Protesters targeted both McDonald’s as well as the American Hospital Association.
Thousands marching for labor rights in Chicago!— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) September 4, 2017
Unions are more popular than at any time in years!
Why? Because we need them more than ever! pic.twitter.com/dzaMTm4Div
“You know, a lot of these people out here today are living in poverty and they’re tired of it, and they want some respect on their checks,” long-time fast-food worker, Jacqueline Short said. “They want $15 an hour and we’re out here because we believe that we will get it, we believe we will win, as long as we continue to fight.”
Minimum-wage workers are fighting back, calling on representatives to act in defense of people who have struggled to manage households on minimum wage amid the rise in inflation and the cost of living.
“My tooth is killing me, but I can’t afford to go to a dentist. I’m skipping meals so my sons can eat. And I’m worrying all the time,” said Bettie Douglas.
"The minimum wage has always separated my family — we've either been at work or at school," explained McDonald's worker, Sabreal Ealem, to Gambit. "We rarely see each other. The minimum wage is separating families — not just mine," she said.
Statistics show in Boston, a median household income has only grown an annual 0.5 percent since 1979, while the cost of living has continued to climb in the New England city.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 about 45 percent of the 2.6 million working at hourly wages at or below the federal minimum were older than 24 years, while 23.3 percent were aged 25 to 34, both figures remaining constant over the past decade.
“The number one job of politicians is to raise the standard of living for workers,” Fight for $15’s call to action reads on the movement’s site.
To match the varied cost of living throughout the country, 29 states across the U.S. have raised their minimum wages from anywhere between US$3-US$8, with California State Governor Brown increasing its minimum wage to US$15 an hour by 2022.
The Fight for $15 began in 2012 when 200 fast-food workers walked away from their stations in protest of the low wages and lack of union representation.