Thousands Demand $15 and a Union in U.S. Labor Day Protests
Chants echoed, signs were hoisted, and demands were made as tens-of-thousands of activists protested in more than 400 American cities for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and the right to freely form a union.
The U.S. Labor Day protests also launched a year-long drive to mobilize voters to defeat anti-worker attacks spearheaded by right-wing elected officials.
The September 4 rallies and strikes were organized by the Fight for $15, a movement that started with fast food workers in New York nearly five years ago and has since spread across industries and the country.
Health care employees like Margie Brelove, 57, of Milwaukee, Wis., were on the frontlines. Four years ago, she lost her $18-an-hour job at a meatpacking plant and now earns $12.64 cleaning hospital rooms and discharging patients at a local medical center.
“It’s not enough to live on,” she told USA Today. After paying $600 in rent for a one-bedroom apartment and $20 a week in bus fare, among other expenses, she said, “I can’t afford groceries and have to go to my kids” for extra cash. She added, “I’d like to go to the movies but can’t afford to go.”
While hospital employees rallied, fast food workers went on a one-day strike. Bettie Douglas, a mother of two who has worked at a St. Louis, Mo., McDonald's for a decade, wrote: "What corporations and politicians are doing to me and other working people in St. Louis is obscene. But we refuse to take it lying down."
"Instead, we are taking to the streets—and we will be louder than ever," Douglas continued. "Today—Labor Day—you'll be able to see us out on the strike lines in St. Louis and hundreds of cities across the country demanding $15 an hour and union rights."
As the global service worker federation, UNI Global Union stands in solidarity with the Fight for $15. The movement has raised the wages of 22 million workers over the last five years. Recent victories include:
▪ Minneapolis in June became the first Midwestern city to adopt a $15 an hour minimum wage by 2024, raising pay for an estimated 71,000 workers
▪ Mayors in Cleveland and Atlanta announced this summer they would soon raise their minimum wages for city workers to $15.
▪ In July, Democrats made $15 an hour a central piece of their “Better Deal” plan while $15 an hour has become the minimum in states that include states and cities such as New York, California, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
▪ Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and Nationwide Insurance each announced plans to increase their minimum wages to $15 an hour for various workers.
If you are in the United States, find out more about the Fight for $15’s electoral efforts here: http://fightfor15.org/s-petition/forty-for-15/.