Fast food and other low-paid workers across the country, with a focus on the South, are staging walkouts and demonstrations on Monday to call attention to the fight for a minimum wage of $15 per hour and the right to unionize.
Together with the Poor People’s Campaign, the national group Fight for $15 is staging rallies in cities including Detroit, Los Angeles, and Memphis—the site of the historic sanitation workers’ march exactly 50 years ago.
Fifteen hundred marchers are expected to attend a demonstration in Memphis, where workers, supported by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., marched in 1968 to demand safety standards, a living wage, and recognition of their union.
Supporters of the movement are tying the fight for a $15 minimum wage to civil rights.
“The fight for strong unions was at the heart of the original Poor People’s Campaign, and it must be at the forefront of our effort as well,” said the Rev. William Barber II, co-chair of the new Poor People’s Campaign, originally started by King in 1967. “To truly defeat systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation, all working people must have the freedom to come together and harness their power collectively.”
According to the compensation research company PayScale, fast food workers make an average of $8.28 per hour. Those wages, depending on hours, leaves those workers making about $15,000 to $21,000 per year.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour leaves workers unable to afford a two-bedroom rental apartment in any U.S. state.
The Poor People’s Campaign and Fight for $15 are also planning six weeks of “direct action and nonviolent civil disobedience” starting on Mother’s Day.