Thousands of fast food, home care, and other low-wage workers in 270 cities across the US on November 10 joined the largest unfair labor practices strike yet in the campaign to increase the US minimum wage to $15 an hour.
They were joined by FedEx workers, Las Vegas parking valets, short-haul truck drivers at ports, and many other who support a living wage paycheck for all.
In Oakland, California, strikers and their supporters chanted, “We want a better life,” which succinctly expressed the desires of the strikers and the motivation behind the Fight for $15 movement whose growing momentum has vaulted it into a national political issue.
Speakers at rallies supporting the strike described the Fight for $15 as a civil rights issue, and at several rallies, speakers talked about the connections between the Fight for $15 and the Black Lives Matter and the immigrant rights movements.
In Milwaukee, Fight for $15 strikers and their supporters were joined by Black Lives Matter and Voces de la Frontera Action, an immigrants rights group, in a march to and rally at the Republican presidential debate. A banner at the front of the march, expressed the solidarity of the marchers. It read,
FIGHT FOR $15
BLACK LIVES MATTER
“What you saw last night was three of the most important social movements in this country coming together into one movement that puts forward a common agenda and a vision of hope, ” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera Action, in a statement issued the day after the march and rally.
Fight for $15 organizers see the successful strike and the attention that it gathered as an important step toward politicizing the fight for a decent minimum wage.
A banner at the top of the Fight for $15 website has this message for federal, state, and local candidates running in an election: “Come get my vote.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for President, got the message.
Sanders spoke at a rally of federal contract workers. These low-wage workers, who clean federal buildings and work in the dining facilities that feed US House members and senators, joined the nationwide Fight for $15 strike and have been engaged in an ongoing effort to organize a union.
“People in this country who work 40 hours a week deserve a living wage,” said Sanders to the strikers as he held an umbrella to keep the rain off his head. “And workers all over this country deserve the right to organize a union.”
In California, supporters of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour took another step toward making the fight a political movement.
On November 9, the day before the Fight for $15 strike, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced that it had gathered 500,000 signatures on a petition for a ballot initiative that will give California voters a chance to decide whether to make $15 an hour the state’s minimum wage.
In order to qualify for a ballot initiative, the petition needed 350,000 signatures of registered voters.
“Public support for this initiative is overwhelming because people know you simply can’t live in California on $19,000 a year, and they want to create a path to a better life for all low-wage workers and their families,” said Martha Alvarez, a certified nursing assistant and member of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West.
Minimum wage workers, weren’t the only ones to join the Fight for $15 strike.
FedEx workers in Gardenia, California on November staged a one-day unfair labor practices strike to push for their own demands for union recognition by FedEx.
US Uncut reports that the strike interrupted delivery service in the South San Francisco Bay Area.
The Gardenia FedEx workers were joined by other FedEx workers and others who are seeking to join the Teamsters union.
The Teamsters expressed the union’s support for all workers fighting for better wages and working conditions.
“The Teamsters joined with thousands of truck drivers, valet attendants and low-wage workers across the country today in a day of action to raise awareness about the sorry state of wages and benefits for millions of everyday Americans on the job,” said the Teamsters in a statement about the day of action.
The union’s statement of support for those fighting for a decent wage said that if workers want fair wages, they need to join a union.
“The Labor Department’s own statistics prove why joining a union is important,” said the Teamsters.” The median union worker earns more than $200 a week . . . than a non-union one. That’s why the Teamsters have stressed the importance of labor union membership in our recent “Let’s Get America Working!” campaign.