With presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on their side, fast food workers are on strike today across the country. It's being called the largest nationwide rally yet, bigger even than protests in April, with tens of thousands of workers in 270 cities encouraging support for 2016 presidential candidates like Democrats Sanders and Hillary Clinton who support a minimum wage increase. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, while the Fight for $15 movement, supported by the Service Employees International Union, is pushing for a $15 minimum wage for everyone.
Organized, the movement could wield significant voting power; Yennet Lathrop, a researcher at the pro-union National Employment Law Project, told Al Jazeera America, "low-wage workers in America are 'starting to wake up politically.'" Striking while the iron is hot, Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto announced today that he would raise city workers' minimum wage to $15 an hour.
San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle have already adopted minimum wage increases, and the governor of New York convened a panel to adopt a higher minimum wage as well, though that move faces strong opposition from the National Restaurant Association.
The Washington Restaurant Association recently reversed its opposition to a higher minimum wage, though it hasn't specified how high a wage it would support. This summer Portland, Maine's city council approved an increase in the city's minimum wage to $10.61 per hour, a move that was later amended to exclude tipped workers; last week, though, voters rejected a measure that would have increased that figure to $15 an hour with a bump for tipped workers as well.
With chains like Burger King, McDonald's, and Wendy's affected by walkouts today, attorney Steve Bernstein warned Nation's Restaurant News that "employers should be cautious before taking action against any missing employees, especially in light of recent cases before the National Labor Relations Board." McDonald's is currently embroiled in multiple such cases; in another recent one, Chipotle was ordered to rehire and compensate a worker it had fired for joining the Fight for $15 movement.
Here's the scene on the ground in Memphis, Vegas, and Harlem; check out hashtag #FightFor15 on Twitter for more in real time.