Tens of thousands of low-wage workers took to the streets across the U.S. today to protest against the dire straits being faced by millions of everyday Americans who struggle to scrape by despite working full-time jobs.
Whether working in fast-food restaurants, the nation’s airports, as Uber drivers or in academia, people from all walks of life are being hampered by a minimum wage that has not keep up with inflation as well as increasing efforts to emasculate unions in many states. From coast-to-coast, in 340 cities both big and small, workers turned out to tell elected officials they will not stop in their push for economic fairness.
Workers took to social media to explain they have little choice but to take action if they want to be able to support themselves and their families. “I got arrested because I’m tired of living paycheck to paycheck,” Doris Evans, a McDonald’s worker in Chicago, said on Twitter.
She was one of scores of reported arrests that took place this morning not only in Chicago, but in New York City and Oakland, Calif. as well. More were expected as the demonstrations continued.
Other workers also wanted to prove a point as part of their actions. Northern California resident Rico Johnson said on Twitter, “I am striking for my kids. I want my kids to be able to thrive, not just exist.”
Today’s protests were organized by Fight for $15 on the fourth anniversary of its initial action held in New York City. Since then, more than 22 million workers have received wages nationwide thanks to minimum wage hikes that have been implemented by cities and states all over the country. That comes to about $61.5 billion in raises overall, according to the National Employment Law Project.
But there is still a long way to go. A July report by the Economic Policy Institute shows that if the minimum wage had keep up with inflation and productivity gains since its high point in 1968, it would now come to $18.85 an hour. The current federal minimum wage is only $7.25.
Some lawmakers praised the actions of workers. “I stand with the workers across the country who are demanding $15 an hour and a union,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Twitter. “Keep fighting, sisters and brothers.”
But it will take more than words to prevail in this fight. Broad support in the street shows elected officials at all levels of government that workers mean business. That’s the way to win higher wages and more rights for workers!