On Tuesday, fast-food workers in 15 cities across the United States went on strike to put pressure on Congress for a $15 minimum wage. Workers from Durham to Chicago walked out, holding signs demanding respect and to be paid a higher minimum wage now.
BREAKING: 100s of fast-food workers walk off the job ON STRIKE today in Durham NC and across the country to demand $15/hr min wage, safer working conditions, and respect on the job! Together we fight, together WE WILL WIN. #Fightfor15 #RaisetheWage pic.twitter.com/K22jz58mGY
— NC Raise Up (@RaiseUpfor15) February 16, 2021
BREAKING: Fast food workers across Chicago are ON STRIKE today to call on Congress to pass a $15 minimum wage.
— Fight For 15 Chicago (@chifightfor15) February 16, 2021
The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009, when it was increased to $7.25 per hour. But there is a chance that could change—and soon: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Democrats in both chambers of Congress have pushed to include a raise to the $15 minimum wage in the still-in-flux COVID-19 stimulus package. It’s still unclear if the rules of reconciliation—the maneuver Senate Democrats plan to use to pass the bill—will allow the provision to stand, though a Monday letter from the Congressional Budget Office offered new hope that it would. (That said, the question of whether all Senate Democrats would even support it is another matter.)
No matter the political calculus, workers say the pandemic has made clear the pressing need for change. “Things weren’t working for me and my family before COVID and now, things are even harder,” said Houston McDonald’s worker Gloria Machuca in an email to supporters for Fight for $15, a global movement pushing for the change. “I’m still making a poverty wage, still choosing between groceries and rent, and for nearly a year—I’ve been risking my life at work every day. Workers around the country are striking today because we’re sick of being treated like we’re disposable.”
I stand in strong solidarity with fast food workers all over this country who are going on strike today to demand $15 an hour and a union. The Senate must raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour with 51 votes this year. We have got to end the crisis of starvation wages in America.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 16, 2021
Black Americans, who make up a significant share of frontline workers, would be particularly helped by the increase, those striking say; one out of four workers who would benefit from a $15 minimum wage is a Black woman or Latina, according to Fight for $15.
“Last year as we mourned the Black lives lost and communities of color destroyed by the pandemic, McDonald’s continued to prioritize its profits over the health and safety of workers,” McDonald’s worker Taiwanna Milligan said in a Fight for $15 statement. “During this pandemic, McDonald’s has done the bare minimum to protect us. Early on, we had to reuse masks over and over, or pay McDonald’s for a new mask. I felt like we had to take our safety into our own hands, so I decided to walk off the job and go on strike.”
Now home care and nursing home workers are joining fast-food workers in calling for higher wages, rallying outside agencies that oversee Medicaid in Atlanta, Richmond, and Los Angeles. In Milwaukee, where wind chills are forecast between -5 and zero degrees tonight, workers will gather downtown and hold “$15 is COVID relief” signs ahead of President Joe Biden’s CNN town hall in the city. Some workers, including those in Houston, where some have been without power since early Monday, are braving severe winter storms to call for higher wages.
Home care workers with @SEIU2015 in Ventura, CA are speaking up and joining fast-food workers demanding a $15/hr minimum wage.
— HomeCare FightFor15 (@FF15HomeCare) February 16, 2021