Today marks four years since since the labor movement known as the Fight for $15 launched, and American fast-food employees and other hourly workers are continuing to push for a living wage. Declaring today a “National Day of Disruption,” protesters in hundreds of cities across the country are participating in mass strikes and sit-ins to bring attention to the cause.
Reports of peaceful arrests have emerged in a number of cities, including Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Houston, and Los Angeles, where dozens were taken into custody after blocking a roadway. In Manhattan, two dozen protesters were arrested for blocking traffic — including multiple city council members and an 83-year-old McDonald’s employee.
Today marks the first major Fight for $15 protest since Donald Trump’s election victory. The labor movement is perhaps now more crucial than ever, as President Trump is unlikely to support a federal minimum wage increase — and he’ll likely appoint people to the National Labor Relations Board that are less friendly to workers, which could make it harder to unionize.
Trump’s pledge to overthrow Obamacare could strip millions of workers of healthcare, and he’s also vowed to repeal President Obama’s new regulations that would’ve made salaried workers earning less than $47,500 a year eligible for overtime pay (though that was already blocked by a Texas court last week).
Meanwhile, politicians on the other side of the aisle, including Bernie Sanders, took to social media to express their support for the movement:
I stand with the workers across the country who are demanding $15 an hour and a union. Keep fighting, sisters and brothers. #FightFor15— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 29, 2016
If someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty. #Fightfor15— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) November 29, 2016
There isn’t a single state where minimum wage workers earning $7.25 an hour can afford to rent an apartment. We need to #FightFor15!— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) November 29, 2016
According to a new report from the National Employment Law Project, minimum wage workers have won $62 billion in annual raises since the Fight for $15 began in 2012, and dozens of employers nationwide have instituted their own minimum wage increases since the labor movement began.
Unfortunately, the hospitality industry still has a long way to go: That list includes just two restaurant chains — Starbucks and McDonald’s — and the raises in question only affected a fraction of their employees. An estimated 40 percent of restaurant workers nationwide live in poverty, and more than half of fast-food workers rely on government assistance to make ends meet.