Fight for $15 hourly minimum wage hits the streets in Phila. and nationwide
Holding a microphone, Shymara Jones, a fast-food worker at Popeyes, had a message for the politicians. "We have to make sure our state representatives are talking about $15 an hour," Jones, 22, of Philadelphia, said at a rainy rally outside City Hall. "This is what they need to be talking about 24/7 if they want our vote."
Holding a microphone, Shymara Jones, a fast-food worker at Popeyes, had a message for the politicians.
"We have to make sure our state representatives are talking about $15 an hour," Jones, 22, of Philadelphia, said at a rainy rally outside City Hall. "This is what they need to be talking about 24/7 if they want our vote."
Dubbing it a fast-food "strike," more than 100 restaurant workers in Philadelphia and many more around the nation on Tuesday held rallies, protests, and marches, seeking a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a union, and political power.
They were joined by home-care and airport workers, janitors, and union leaders and organizers as well as advocates for low-wage workers.
The groups chose Nov. 10 for their protests, a year ahead of next year's Election Day, in a bid to signal the political potential of 64 million low-wage workers.
They cite a survey indicating that unregistered low-wage workers would register to vote if a presidential candidate advocated for a $15 minimum wage.
U.S. Senate candidate Kathleen "Katie" McGinty heard Jones' message. "I'm proud to be here to fight for $15," McGinty told a crowd of more than 100 huddled under umbrellas Tuesday afternoon. A Democrat, she hopes to unseat Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey, who has said minimum-raise increases will destroy jobs.
Newly elected City Councilwoman Helen Gym and State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) also spoke.
The day's rallies were set to end in Milwaukee with protests at the Republican presidential debate.
In general, GOP presidential candidates say that raising the minimum wage above $7.25, the current federal minimum, would hurt job growth.
The Democrats disagree. "Fast-food, home care, child care workers: Your advocacy is changing our country for the better," presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton tweeted.
At a Washington rally, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told protesters they should be proud of what they have accomplished and should continue the fight for $15 an hour and a union.
But "the simple truth is, these protests won't be about workers or wages at all, but about the labor leaders who are pinning their own professional hopes on unionizing fast-food workers," U.S. Chamber of Commerce official Glenn Spencer wrote in a blog post circulated by the chamber's media group.
"Selling union memberships to this sector would be a huge revenue boost - worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually - for the struggling union industry," Spencer added.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has backed the three-year wage push.
In Philadelphia, the day of labor rallies opened at a McDonald's at 31st Street and Allegheny Avenue, where some workers left their jobs.
From there, a roving group moved to restaurants in North Philadelphia before a Comcast protest at noon. The afternoon rally at City Hall was capped by a wet march through Center City to a McDonald's at Broad and Walnut Streets.
McDonald's worker Safiyyah Cotton, 22, didn't report for her 10 a.m. shift at the McDonald's at 31st and Allegheny.
She earns $7.50 an hour and relies on food stamps to feed herself and her son, 2.
"I like the fact that other workers - home-care workers, airport workers, janitors - we have each other's back," she said. "We all want the same thing."
Although Tuesday's main message was about raising wages and political power, other groups, such as the Media Mobilizing Project, which spearheaded the noon Comcast rally, were piggybacking on the day's events.
Security guards and bicycle police stopped about 20 protesters - and lunch-goers - from entering the food court below Comcast's Center City headquarters.
The group wants Comcast to broaden access to low-cost Internet for more low-income subscribers and to agree to pay prevailing wages to its workers.
Comcast said it has connected 70,000 low-income families to the Internet and provided 3,700 low-income residents with digital training.
SEIU Local 32BJ assembled a group of janitors to protest at the U.S. headquarters of Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Inc. in North Wales. The union, which represents janitors who clean and maintain 170 suburban office buildings and manufacturing plants, is in the middle of negotiations with a group of the buildings' owners.
The contract, which will expire Dec. 15, covers 1,400 janitors, who now earn an average of $12.35 an hour, the union said.
The union's beef? Teva, the union said, fired its union cleaning contractor, replacing it with a nonunion employer, putting 10 union janitors out of work.