A wave of militant action rolled across the US on November 29 disrupting business as usual as low-wage workers told the nation that they weren’t backing down from their fight to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Strikes, acts of civil disobedience, and other protests involving thousands of people took place in 340 cities.
Despite the US government’s turn to the extreme right in the November election, supporters of the November 29 day of action said that they would escalate their fight to raise wages and stop looming attacks on the working class.
“We are also protesting to reject the politics of divisiveness that tears America apart by race, religion, ethnicity and gender,” said Betty Douglas, a McDonald’s worker from St. Louis. “And we won’t back down until the economy is fixed for all workers and we win justice for all people in our nation.”
In Chicago, 500 workers at O’Hare Airport walked off the job in an unfair labor strike.
The strikers carried signs reading, “Fight for $15 and a union.”
The strikers included janitors, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, and other low-wage service providers.
The workers said that they were striking to protest intimidation by their employers who are trying to stop the workers from organizing a union.
After the walkout, workers gathered at an O’Hare terminal to rally for a $15 an hour minimum wage and the right to join a union.
Low-wage workers at 20 other US airports joined in protests to demand a $15 an hour minimum wage.
In New York, demonstrators sat down in front of a McDonald’s on Broadway shutting down traffic during the morning rush hour.
“We are here today because we face retaliation in our stores for the gains we’ve made in our pay and our continued effort to fight for better jobs,” said Jorel Ware, a McDonald’s worker to the New York Daily News. “I’m ready to face arrest and put my own safety and freedom on the line.”
“We are here to send a message loud and clear to our employers that we won’t back down,” said Jahnay Tucker, a Chipotle worker. “We are going to keep fighting for the good jobs we deserve.”
According to the Daily News, more than two dozen protesters were arrested for their part in the sit-in.
The protesters were joined by Uber and Lyft drivers, who have been fighting for union recognition.
In Memphis, about 100 people sat in at a McDonald’s near downtown and then began to march toward Interstate 240.
Thinking that the protesters were going to block traffic on the freeway, Memphis police blocked their march.
A stand off ensued that lasted several hours. “It’s a free street,” shouted the protesters to the police blocking their way.
In Minneapolis, 250 people gathered in the street in front of a McDonald’s at Nicollet Avenue and 24th Street where they blocked traffic. Twenty-one people were arrested.
Protesters then moved to a Kohl’s store in the Eden Prairie shopping center.
Janitors who work for Kohl’s have been organizing to fight for a Responsible Contractors Policy that would require janitorial service contractors providing services at Kohl’s to pay a decent wage, provide benefits, and allow workers to join a union of their choice.
“We’ve had a lot of support; it’s crazy,” said Stephanie Gasca of Centro Trabajadores Unido en Lucha (Workers Center United in Struggle), which has helped the janitors organize, to the Star Tribune. “We’ve been involved in this movement for almost two years. It’s time to pass $15 an hour now.”
In Las Vegas, Fight for $15 supporters marched through the Las Vegas Strip in the evening to a McDonald’s where six people sat down to block traffic and were arrested.
“We’re here to say, no matter who is in the White House, we’re going to keep fighting for $15,” said Laura Martin of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, which helped organize the action.
These are just a few of the actions that took place all over the US. Hundreds of people were arrested and thousands participated in street actions and strikes.
Those who took part in what organizers called “A Day of Disruption,” pointed to the gains that the Fight for $15 has accomplished in four years.
Since the first fast food workers walked off the job in 2012 to demand a $15 an hour minimum wage, 22 million minimum wage workers have gotten or will get a pay increase because the states or cities where they live enacted minimum wage increases.
In New York and California alone, 10 million workers will be lifted out of poverty because the two states increased their minimum wage to $15 an hour.
In November, voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington voted to increase their states minimum wage. In Washington, the minimum wage will increase to $13.50 by 2020, and in the other states, it will increase to $12 an hour by 2020.
Organizers of the November 29 actions said that their fight will continue until all who work are paid a living wage that keeps them out of poverty.