April 15, 2015, was a day like any other day, except for the fact that it was the day chosen by thousands of people throughout the United States to protest the low wages paid at places like McDonald’s. Demonstrators had announced previously that they’d be rallying across the US on Wednesday, April 15, to push for increasing the nationwide minimum wage to $15 an hour.
People went to the streets chanting: “What do we want? $15! When do we want it? Now!” Rallies were staged in more than 200 cities and the idea gathered the support of people in other countries. Thousands of lower-income workers and their supporters rallied across the nation, including Chicago, demanding a $15 minimum wage.
Workers demonstrated at McDonald’s restaurants in Jackson, Mississippi, Boston, Denver, Albany, New York, Detroit and elsewhere. The events were organized by the union-backed Fight for $15 campaign, which is demanding that McDonald’s Corp. and other fast-food chains raise their minimum wages to $15 and let workers unionize.
The Fight for $15 movement began in 2012, when about 200 workers walked off the job in New York. The protests have since expanded beyond fast food to include workers from other low-wage industries, including child-care and home health workers. Adjunct professors and airport workers also joined Wednesday’s rallies.There was also a reason to protest on April 15. Workers said they chose to protest on tax day both because April 15 matches their minimum wage demand and because they want to “highlight the fact that they are paid so little that too many are forced to rely on public assistance to get by.”
More than half of American fast-food employees depend on public assistance to make ends meet, according to a 2013 report by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, and researchers there said in a report published this week that the majority of Americans who survive off of government assistance are nevertheless members of working families. In places like Chicago the protest included healthcare workers, school employees, home care workers, childcare workers, airport employees, Wal*Mart workers and others.
Hillary Clinton, who recently announced plans to run for the Democratic nomination, voiced support for the protesters. “Every American deserves a fair shot at success,” Clinton said on Twitter. “Fast food & child care workers shouldn’t have to march in streets for living wages. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted: “Our City will continue to FightFor15 because the minimum wage must keep up with the cost of living.” Former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich joined protesters at a McDonald’s in Oakland, California. Reich led the Department of Labor during the Clinton administration’s first term.
The protests are taking place just weeks after McDonald’s announced a pay hike for workers, but that increase is only taking effect at the McDonald’s-owned restaurants and not the franchises that employ 90% of the company’s workers. McDonald’s has said the protests are staged events and that participants have been paid to attend. McDonald’s also said many of the protesters don’t actually work at its restaurants but in its franchised stores, which make up about 90 percent of its U.S. restaurants.
People feel that corporations and institutions are taking in huge profits at the expense of low wage workers. They have stated that working people are going to keep speaking out in the streets, in their communities, and at the ballot box until we raise wages, strengthen the economy, and build a democracy that works for all families.
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