Thousands of workers across more than 160 cities turned out for a national day of action on December 4th to demand higher wages and the right to form a union. The Fight for $15 movement began two years ago amongst fast food workers, but the cause has grown exponentially since being undertaken by citizens struggling to live on poverty-wages in various industries, including convenience store workers, airport employees and home care workers.
Rallies took place in Boston, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Knoxville, Philadelphia, and here in New York City, to name a few, with strikers walking off the job in many more.
The crowd outside City Hall on Broadway and Barclay had incredible energy, complimented by a marching band performing while whistles and trumpets blared along. The atmosphere was hopeful and determined, despite the fact that many in the crowd were clearly still reeling from the previous day’s news that there would be no indictment for the cop who killed Eric Garner, as many of those in attendance at the Fight for $15 rally held signs that read, “Black Lives Matter”.
At a panel discussion put on by the Left Labor Party on Tuesday, December 2nd, Jake Streich-Kest, an organizer with the Fast Food Campaign, noted that, “Just recently a few workers from New York got back from a trip to Europe where they were visiting workers in Denmark and the UK. They spoke to fast food workers where they have a union, like in Denmark, where McDonald’s workers make $20 dollars an hour,” Streich-Kest said.
It is unarguably certain that McDonald’s and other massive fast food corporations are capable of paying their American employees living wages, given that McDonald’s pays their employees in foreign countries decent wages. While the average fast food worker makes a mere $8.69 per hour or less, the CEO of McDonald’s rakes in more than $9,200 per hour.
Jackie M., a fast food striker and Wendy’s worker revealed to the crowd that she lives in a shelter because she cannot afford to live in NYC with the current minimum wage of only 8 dollars an hour.
Both city officials and low-wage workers alike spoke at the rally. Current New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer declared, “It is outrageous that corporations are making millions and all you want to do is take care of your kids.” NY State Assemblyman Carl E. Heastie, chief sponsor of the 2014 bill to raise the minimum wage, was also in attendance.
As a 2014 report from the AFL-CIO (a federation of labor organizations) reveals, in 2013, CEOs made 331 times that of their average worker, and 774 times more than their minimum wage workers. That ratio marks a sharp increase from that of the 1950s, when CEOs made 20 times that of their employees, while in the 1980s CEOs made on average 42 times that of their employees.
It is not as though New York City workers are demanding the impossible. Seattle and San Francisco have recently begun the process of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Just this past Tuesday, December 2nd, the City Council of Chicago voted 44 to 5 to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13 per hour.
Raising the minimum wage would lift millions of workers out of poverty. It is truly unbelievable that we live in a world where our fellow citizens can work full time and still need to rely on government assistance just to get by. It is unjust to allow people to juggle two and sometimes even three jobs, yet still remain unable to pay their bills. And yet the sad reality is that Republicans in Congress continually fight to block a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour. With Republicans winning big in the 2014 elections, the fight for fair wages may become more difficult. The importance of voting, however futile it may seem, however maligned the system may be, cannot be understated for matters such as these.
All photos and videos taken at the Fight for $15 Rally on Thursday, December 4th.
 http://www.aflcio.org/Corporate-Watch/Paywatch-2014 – Please check out their report for more unbelievable stats on the pay rates of CEOs and minimum wage workers.