OAKLAND-The Fight for 15 movement has grown in the number of actions from three years ago when a few walked off the job in New York City. Last week 270 cities joined in a nationwide walkout from low wage jobs. Workers from McDonald’s Burger King, Wendy’s, workers in home healthcare, childcare, auto parts stores, farm workers, grocery clerks, and FedEx drivers all showed up to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour and the right to form a union.
In Denver workers rallied outside of McDonald’s at Evans and Colorado Boulevard, and in Oakland, California workers first met at District attorney Nancy E. O’Malley’s office.
In a significant move, the Fight for 15 movement joined Black Lives Matter Bay Area to protest at Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s office. The action included a sit-in inside O’Malley’s office where 14 leaders UNITE HERE Local 2850, SEIU Local 1021 and AFT Local 2121, called on the DA to drop charges against the Black Friday 14.
Last year, on Black Friday, 14 Black activists locked themselves together and blocked the BART train, in response to the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. District Attorney O’Malley has refused to drop criminal charges against the Black Friday 14 and is seeking $70,000 in restitution from the activists.
Meanwhile, just outside the DA’s office, a “Black worker speak-out” was held where underpaid workers and labor union activists shared about their struggles for better labor conditions and union rights. Sixty-million US residents are paid less than $15 an hour which includes 48% women, 54% African Americans and 60% Latinos.
A National Employment Law Project survey showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote given the option of a candidate who supported $15/hour and the right to for a union. Those numbers add up to 48 million potential voters who could turn the direction of an election.
Although the Fight for 15 movement began 3 years ago with small numbers and a critical media, today the numbers have skyrocketed and have earned the respect of presidential candidates including Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton who told Detroit fast food workers, “I want to be your champion.”
In September, fast food workers celebrated a successful movement when New York fast food workers won a minimum wage of $15/hour following a wage board recommendation to Governor Cuomo who is now working for the state to be the first in the nation to adopt an across-the-board minimum wage of $15/hour. Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles followed the lead while Oregon and Massachusetts have adopted the pay increase for home care workers. Leading the way for individual companies to raise minimum wages, Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank and Nationwide insurance are reported to pay a minimum of $15/hour, a practice that was initiated earlier this year.
After the planned speak-out the large crowd marched to Oakland City Hall where a Fight for $15 Rally was held, where under paid workers described what a $15 minimum wage would mean to them and their families. There was a call directly to corporate CEO’s to raise pay and respect the right to form unions without retaliation. There was also a call on elected representatives to prevent the “wealthy and powerful to write the rules in their favor.”