Fast-food workers from more than a dozen US cities are striking on Friday to demand the federal minimum be increased to $15 an hour.
Ahead of Monday’s holiday honoring American civil rights leader the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the group known as Fight for 15 said workers from mega-corporations including McDonald’s and Starbucks had been encouraged to walk off their jobs on what would have been King’s 92nd birthday on 15 January.
Karesha Manns, a Memphis McDonald’s worker said in a statement that she makes $10 an hour at her local McDonald’s, “which isn’t enough to pay the bills or support [her] family”.
“I’m striking today to carry on [the reverend’s] fight for racial and economic justice in this country, which means every working person earns a living wage and has a job with dignity,” the statement said.
Since, 2012 the group has organized walkouts calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage. The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 for more than 10 years.
Fight for 15 and Union, an international movement of workers advocating for higher wages, confirmed the strike will include car caravans and strike lines staged on Zoom. Supported by the Service Employees International Union, workers representing cities including Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles Miami and Milwaukee, are fighting for their right to unionize.
The movement claimed to have won more the $70bn in raises for more than 27 million people, successfully lobbying to pass a $15-an-hour minimum wage laws in at least eight states.
Organizers have also challenged Joe Biden to raise the wage to $15 in his first 100 days. On Thursday, the president-elect unveiled his coronavirus economic relief package that included said mandate. It is unclear, however, how likely the legislation is to pass in US Congress, where Democrats have narrow margins in both chambers.
Earlier the president-elect tweeted he hoped the House and Senate would act to passing federal legislation solidifying a $15-an-hour wage hike.
“I’ve long said that we need to reward work, not just wealth, in this country,” Biden said at the time. “People in both parties now recognize it’s time to raise the minimum wage so hard-working people earn at least $15 an hour”.
Advocates contend the US’s national minimum wage disproportionately affects Black and Latino workers. According to Fight for 15, which cites the Brookings Institution and Department of labor for their findings, raising the minimum wage would affect nearly 25 million Americans, combatting the racial and gender wage gap, made worse by a coronavirus pandemic that has cost more than 389,000 lives in the US.
Opponents contend that raising the federal minimum wage will result in significant job losses. According to a 2019 Congressional Budget Office report, a $15-an-hour raise for just 17 million workers, could mean layoffs and facility closures for others.
The report estimates as many as 1.3 million workers could lose their jobs in an average week in 2025.
Still, in places like Chicago and Los Angeles, where workers successfully strived to raise the minimum wage, workers will strike in solidarity to demand all US workers receive $15 an hour.