The Fight for $15 Heats Up This Week with More Fast-Food Protests
A month ahead of midterm elections, the fight for $15 intensifies this October, as fast-food workers and other laborers lobby for higher wages around the country, with protests breaking out this week in Michigan. On Tuesday, Jeff Bezos announced that he would be raising the minimum wage at Amazon to $15 an hour, marking a significant shift in the movement, as the company employs over 250,000 people. "We listened to our critics," he said. Who else is listening?
This week, Fight for $15 walk-outs took place in the Midwest, with over a thousand fast-food workers staging walk-outs in Detroit and Flint. On Tuesday, 18 demonstrators were arrested at a Detroit McDonald's for disorderly conduct, a spokesperson for the Detroit police told the Detroit Free Press. One person arrested was Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Huffington Post reports.
The scene at the Flint walk-outs was similarly chaotic, and turned violent when several fast-food workers protesting for the right to form unions were injured by a pick-up truck that drove into the crowd, injuring several people, according to the Detroit Free Press.
What is next for the movement? Bezos' announcement led Lachelle Slaughter, a Detroit McDonald's worker, to issue a statement saying that the hike "shows the Fight for $15's momentum is unstoppable."
"Here’s my message for anyone running for election this year – stand with people who are fighting for the right to a union on the job, not powerful corporations, and you’ll have my vote,” said Brittany Williamson, a Detroit McDonald's worker, in a statement. “Too many politicians are helping companies like McDonald’s block us from exercising our right to form a union, dragging down pay and hurting families where we live. We need elected leaders who will make it easier, not harder, for working people to organize and stick together in a union so we can support ourselves and our families.”
Fight for $15 has been advocating on behalf of restaurant workers since 2012, asking for a $15 minimum wage, the right to unionize, and better working conditions. Victories have been hard-won. In 2017, New York City passed a measure requiring fast-food restaurants to let workers know their schedules at least two weeks in advance, while also requiring last-minute schedule changes to come with extra pay to make up for lost wages.
The movement isn't just about the fight for $15. This September, female workers at McDonald's locations in ten cities staged walk-outs in protest of the company's handling of sexual harassment allegations. The strike, organized in part by the Fight for $15 and paid for by the Times Up Legal Defense fund, followed the complaints of 25 women filed in May; the employees said that McDonald's had ignored incidents of sexual harassment after they had reported them.
According to the Associated Press, the women "alleged groping, propositions for sex, indecent exposure and lewd comments by supervisors. [W]hen the women reported the harassment, they were ignored or mocked, and in some cases suffered retaliation."
"At McDonald’s Corporation, we are and have been committed to a culture that fosters the respectful treatment of everyone," a McDonald's spokesperson said in a statement responding to the harassment allegations. "There is no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind in our workplace. McDonald’s Corporation takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and are confident our independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 90 percent of our 14,000 U.S. restaurants will do the same."
McDonald's could not immediately be reached for comment on the strikes.