Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined protesters in Washington, D.C., Tuesday as part of a national day of action to demand a $15 an hour minimum wage.
The National Day of Action included workers from across the country. It was started by the union-backed Fight for $15 movement. Though the movement had been going on for years, some participants felt the latest protest was their biggest thus far. Bernie, a democratic-socialist, reinforced his support when he spoke to crowds in front of the U.S. Capital.
“They deserve the right to earn enough to live in a decent apartment or a decent house,” Bernie declared. “What you are doing, and workers all over the United States are doing, you are having a profound impact.”
Beyond Washington D.C., the Fight for $15 website listed hundreds of rallies and strikes across the country. Participants rallied in New York state, Wisconsin, Michigan, Connecticut, California, Pennsylvania and Virginia among other places. James Powell, a contract chef for the federal government, noted he struggles to afford even the basics.
“If we can somehow shed light on what’s going on, that $9 and $10, that that’s not anything,” Powell told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “You can’t really pay rent here, rent here is very very high nowadays.”
Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. No state has raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Kyla Hawkins, a Howard University student, noted she has participated in several Fight for $15 protests. Despite being a student with four jobs, she still struggles to get by. In her experience, the the National Day of Action was the biggest Fight for $15 protest to date.
“We’re a little upset because of the rain but we’re definitely here with full support,” Hawkins noted to TheDCNF. “We’re not going to stop because of the rain and as you can see it got a little heavier while we came out here but we didn’t stop marching and we’re not going to stop supporting now.”
“We’re having a Republican debate obviously tonight and we want everyone to know that the minimum wage is the minimum,” Hawkins also said. “We need more than the minimum.”
Despite no state enacting a $15 minimum wage, several cities have. Seattle led the way back in June 2014. San Francisco and Los Angeles followed not long after. Each local ordinance phased in the new wage over the course of several years. New York, Florida and Massachusetts are all considering it.
The $15 minimum wage has grown in popularity in recent years. Fight for $15 has been at the forefront of the movement, organizing dozens of rallies and launching untold amounts of media campaigns. The group is highly influenced and funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
“There is no question we should be looking at solutions to address the growing economic divide in America,” International Franchise Association President Robert Cresanti said in a statement. “However, staging street theatre and shutting down restaurants owned by local families who have invested their life savings and created jobs in communities cannot be the answer.”
The movement has been accused on numerous occasions of being nothing more than an organizing drive for unions. Conservative opposition research group AR Squared (AR2) released a report Tuesday alleging the entire movement is simply a sham.
Supporters say the $15 minimum wage will help the poor by allowing them to more easily afford basic necessities. The increased spending would then in turn stimulate economic activity. Critics, though, say such an increase will actually hurt the poor by limiting job opportunities. According to a survey by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI), a full 72 Percent of U.S. economists oppose a federal $15 minimum wage.
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