CRYSTAL LOPEZ, a Dunkin' Donuts employee from Philadelphia, suffers from an eye disorder and says that she will lose her sight without the $100 bottle of eye drops she needs to maintain her vision.
It's a purchase she says she struggles to make each month because she has been denied health insurance and can barely cover her bills on $7.25 an hour.
Yesterday, she joined 50 students, activists and labor leaders who marched from Rittenhouse Square to Independence Hall to call for an increase in the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.
"We're not lowlifes. We're hard workers," Lopez said. "We deserve better pay."
The event was organized by Coalition of Youth for Living Wages, a grass-roots movement of low-wage workers, in collaboration with groups such as Fight for Philly, Student Labor Action Project, Jobs with Justice, Restaurant Opportunities Center of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Democratic Socialists of America and Temple United Students Against Sweatshops.
"It's our first big organized event," said Noahm Mayer-Deutsch, 23, an organizer with Coalition of Youth for Living Wages. "I watched a YouTube video where someone explained why the minimum wage hurts workers and takes away jobs. I did some more research, and I found studies that show when the minimum wage is raised, it doesn't change hiring practices and more jobs are created."
Jaq Basilis, a college freshman who has worked as a waitress to save money for college, agreed: "This protest is to encourage support among the community."
State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery/Delaware counties, urged the youth at the march to back candidates who support their cause.
"The average CEO now makes 500 times more than their average worker," he said. "The economic policies give every cent to the top 1 percent."
"Campaign for candidates who will fight for you and then make sure those appointed go through with their promise."