As Congress prepares to debate a federal rise in the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15, fast food workers in 15 cities across the country held strikes on Tuesday to demand for this pay raise from restaurant chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.
These workers were accompanied by home care and nursing home workers in their efforts in cities like Atlanta, Charleston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and St. Louis, as they all banded together to fight for higher pay.
President Joe Biden pledged to raise the minimum wage throughout his election campaign in 2020 – the first federal raise since 2009 – as a part of his plan to “narrow racial economic inequality.” Unfortunately, in recent weeks, he has indicated that the increase may not be included in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package being pushed through Congress at the moment.
Former presidential hopeful and current senator Bernie Sanders has been a longtime advocate of the “Fight for $15” movement, which kickstarted the conversation on a raise in minimum wage in America and contributed to wage increases in states such as California, Florida and New York. Currently, Sanders is working alongside the movement to keep the federal raise in the coronavirus package.
On Thursday, Feb. 11, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed that the wage rise would be a part of the House bill, but she acknowledged that it would face resistance in the Senate, where Democrats only have a slight majority (with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as “tiebreaker”).
However, by using a process known as “budget reconciliation,” Senate Democrats would be able to pass the bill with only a simple majority.
A report published by the Congressional Budget Office published on Feb. 8 found that 27 million Americans would benefit from a minimum wage raise, and 900,000 Americans would be lifted out of poverty. Unfortunately, the report also noted that the raise would cost 1.4 million jobs, and it would notably contribute to the nation’s debt.
In contrast, the left-leaning Economics Policy Institute called this report’s findings into question, stating that they were “wrong and inappropriately inflated.”
Those taking part in Tuesday’s strikes noted that they were intended to align in timing with Black History Month to recognize minority workers across the nation.
“This Black History Month, we have a chance to make our own history by winning a living wage of at least $15 an hour and lifting millions of families out of poverty,” said Taiwanna Milligan, a McDonald’s worker from Charleston, South Carolina.
Additionally, Milligan spoke to how fast-food chains often take advantage of minimum wage workers.
“For decades, McDonald’s has made billions in profit off the backs of workers like me, paying us starvation wages,” Milligan said. “I’m striking because I need at least $15 an hour to survive, and I know the only way to make change is to stand up, speak out, and demand it.”
Gloria Machuca, a McDonald’s worker of 20 years from Houston, Texas, agreed with Milligan’s sentiments.
“[Our current wage is] not nearly enough,” Machuca said. “Fifteen dollars would mean I could spend more time with my children, not worry about going hungry, paying bills. My message to President Biden is it’s very important to pass this, as it would make a big difference not just for me, but for all the others that are struggling.”