Across the country, fast-food workers walked off their jobs in a display of solidarity and how far they will go for a living wage. But accompanying them in these protests were members of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, who contend that the two subjects are tied together.
It seemed perfect timing for the organizers that Hillary Clinton would announce she was running for president just days before, because most candidates will have to confront these two causes in some way.
In New York City, the action began Tuesday afternoon when protesters took over the Brooklyn Bridge and got into clashes with police. According to reports from authorities, two officers were assaulted. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was quick to condemn the alleged attacks.
“Reports this evening that two of our NYPD officers were assaulted by protestors reminds us that here in New York City, violence or threats of violence against the police are unacceptable and will absolutely not be tolerated,” said de Blasio in a statement. “These attacks will be thoroughly investigated, and we will urge the full prosecution of the perpetrators.”
But this development didn’t take away from the following Wednesday, when organizers got going at 6 a.m. in Flatbush, where fast-food workers protested alongside union and nonunion construction workers. More rallies were held around the city throughout the day, including home care workers on Central Park West fighting for a $15 an hour wage, college and high school students at Columbia University rallying in support of underpaid workers and a massive rally at Columbus Circle, where protesters would eventually march to Times Square. However, the AmNews caught up with a few people at a staged die-in in front of the McDonald’s restaurant at 71st and Broadway during lunchtime.
A woman from Pennsylvania, who only wanted to be referred to by her first name, Trish, said she’s worked at a local Walmart for approximately seven years and makes only $7.25 an hour. She told the AmNews that she’s here to help send a message and to march for change.
“These companies and corporations need to change,” said Trish. “They need to listen to their workers so they’re not making poverty wages. They need to live on what these corporations are paying them, and currently, that’s not happening. We’re getting by just barely.”
Trish said the workers at her particular Walmart haven’t really attempted to organize and form a union, but they have gone on strike a few times. All she wants is for the retail giant to see the error of its ways.
“Walmart just needs to step up and understand that the workers are hurting,” said Trish. “We can’t live on these low wages.”
Bleu Rainer, a McDonald’s employee from Tampa, Fla., talked to the AmNews about how Black Lives Matter and the Fight for $15 are one in the same.
“The fight for Black Lives Matter and the fight for economic justice, it all ties together,” Rainer said. “You can’t have racial justice without economic justice. People that are mostly working these low-wage jobs are Black and Brown. Inside the workplace, we’re getting abused with the wages, and when we come outside, we’re still getting abused. So it doesn’t make sense.”
Several studies have shown that an increase in the wages of these employees would help boost the economy and lower the burden on taxpayers because workers wouldn’t have to rely on public assistance to survive.
When asked if corporations knew that or just didn’t care, Rainer answered, “I actually think they don’t care. Because they’re profiting millions and billions of dollars. If they cared, they would’ve been giving it to us. The minimum wage hasn’t changed that much since 30 years ago. We need $15, and we need a union.”
Bettie Douglas, of St. Louis, Mo., agreed with Rainer about corporations not caring. Douglas told the AmNews that she takes three buses and a train to her job at a local McDonald’s.
“I don’t think they care, because how can you not know that?” said Douglas. “These companies have billions of dollars. In order to obtain billions of dollars, you have to have some sense of the value of money and of life.”
Making the trek from St. Louis to New York City also helped Douglas confirm something that she always felt.
“Being here lets me know that I’m not in this alone,” Douglas said. “We’re fighting for what’s right. Everything’s going up but our paychecks. How do you expect a person to live?”