Workers across nation demand $15 minimum wage

On the fourth anniversary of the start of the Fight for 15 movement, workers in Minnesota and across the nation are demonstrating to demand a higher wage.

More than 100 people demonstrated early Tuesday outside a McDonald’s restaurant at Nicollet Ave. and 24th St. in Minneapolis, then a large group sat down in the intersection and were arrested in an act of peaceful protest.

They included the Rev. Paul Slack, president of the faith group ISAIAH. “My God calls me to stand with workers for worker rights and worker dignity,” he said as he sat on the cold pavement, waiting to be arrested.

Civil disobedience is necessary, Slack said, “to bring attention to the fact that McDonald’s practices are oppressing people.”

Nearby, Nikki Villavicencio, a disability activist from Maplewood, sat in her wheelchair, also waiting to be arrested. She was taking part to call for higher wages for home health care workers.

“We really need $15 and overtime [pay] for home care workers,” Villavicencio said. “Home care workers need to make a livable wage so we can get the care we need.”

The action at McDonald’s was the first of several events planned Tuesday in Minnesota and one of thousands slated across the country. They included a rally at 4:30 p.m. at the University of Minnesota.

Nov. 29 marks four years since fast food workers in New York City launched the Fight for 15 movement. Since then, it has expanded to include home health aides, child care teachers, airport workers, adjunct professors, retail employees – and many others.

“For too long, McDonald’s and low-wage employers have made billions of dollars in profit and pushed off costs onto taxpayers, while leaving people like us – the people who do the real work – to struggle to survive,” Fight for 15 said in a statement on its website announcing Tuesday’s Day of Action.

Demonstrations, many involving civil disobedience, were taking place in some 340 communities, from Austin, Texas; and Buffalo, New York; to Glendale, Wisconsin; and Sunnyvale, California.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which translates to only $15,080 for a full-time, year-round worker. In Minnesota, the minimum wage is $9.50 an hour for most workers.

But if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since the 1960s, it would be more than $21 an hour today.

Groups involved in organizing events for the Minnesota Day of Action include several unions and CTUL, a Minneapolis-based worker center.

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