Fight for $15 — the organization that has been trying to get fast-food workers across America a $15 minimum wage since 2012 — is holding its biggest protest ever on Tuesday. Workers from chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC will be on strike in 270 cities, including New York City, where the group first rallied.
In some cities, so many people have joined the protests that restaurants have had to close for the day.
Fast-food workers have already seen some victories in the past few years; Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle all passed a $15 minimum wage, and New York plans to become the first state to legislate a $15 minimum wage for fast-food workers statewide — nearly double what many workers are earning now. Although the campaign is funded by the Service Employees International Union, minimum-wage workers from other industries and unions also plan on joining the protests. In New York — where rallies are taking place in rainy Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Financial District — home health-care, child-care, delivery, and other workers who have yet to see a minimum-wage hike are also protesting. Governor Andrew Cuomo said in September that he wants to increase the minimum wage — which will be $9 next year — for all workers next. Thousands of workers in the city are expected to converge on Foley Square at 4 p.m.
Mayor Bill de Blasio attended a rally in downtown Brooklyn early Tuesday morning. “Is this the America we believe in? When someone works all day long and they still can’t get by,” he said. “Does anyone believe that it’s easy to get by in New York City on less than $15 an hour?
He added, “Every time there is a minimum wage increase proposed we hear it’s going to cost jobs and set back the economy. What happens in the end? The opposite.”
A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition showed that it is basically impossible for someone making minimum wage to afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the GOP presidential candidates plan on debating tonight — exactly a year before the election — the protesters are especially eager to get notice. Although all of the Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed a minimum-wage hike of some sort — Hillary Clinton favors a $12 minimum wage, while Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley prefer $15 — few Republican candidates have endorsed one. (Rick Santorum is for a slight minimum-wage raise, and Ben Carson backed automatic minimum-wage increases in a September debate.) Congress hasn’t touched the federal minimum wage in years, however, and most changes have been happening at the local and state level; it’s not clear what a president who cares about a minimum-wage increase would be able to accomplish. Obama has been calling for a higher minimum wage for ages — and nothing has happened on the federal level.
At 6 p.m., workers plan on marching to the Milwaukee Theatre, where the debates are taking place. Most GOP candidates — as well as most industry and business groups — think that a higher minimum wage would hurt the economy and force companies to look for cheaper workers in places outside the United States. This summer, Donald Trump, still at the top of the Republican primary polls, said on MSNBC, “We can’t have a situation where our labor is so much more expensive than other countries that we can no longer compete. One of the things I’ll do if I win, I’ll make us competitive as a country. I want to create jobs so you don’t have to worry about the minimum wage, they’re making much more than the minimum wage. But I think having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country.”