Despite Hundreds of Arrests, Striking Workers Remain Undaunted in Fight for $15 Minimum Wage
By Nika Knight / Common Dreams
Hundreds of service workers were arrested while striking for a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union in cities across the county on Tuesday, organizers said, but the strikers remain undaunted.
“We won’t back down until we win an economy that works for all Americans, not just the wealthy few at the top,” said Naquasia LeGrand, a McDonald’s worker from Albemarle, North Carolina. “Working moms like me are struggling all across the country and until politicians and corporations hear our voices, our Fight for $15 is going to keep on getting bigger, bolder and ever more relentless.”
“We work at O’Hare, one of the biggest airports in the world, but we still live in poverty. I’m fighting because I’m not afraid,” said one airport employee in Chicago.
Independent outlet Unicorn Riot captured footage of the arrests of 21 striking workers in the early morning hours in Minneapolis, with some workers even being arrested in the middle of interviews with reporters. Another video in Los Angeles shows riot police surrounding workers on strike.
Workers were arrested in Boston, Los Angeles, Detroit, and elsewhere.
The strike, organized by the Fight for $15 collective, is the first of its kind since the election of President-elect Donald Trump, and the nationwide action has inspired observers who see the workers’ solidarity and commitment to their cause as a lesson for progressives facing an extreme right-wing administration.
“Their courage, bold vision, solidarity across race and gender, and vision for economic fairness have transformed what is possible for low-wage workers,” writes New York City council member Brad Lander in The Nation. “We’re going to need that courage in the days ahead, in the face of hate crimes and bullying, the loss of health care, the threats to immigrants, to Muslims, to women—such a long list that the erosion of workers’ rights barely gets a mention.”
“By rejecting the reactionary politics of divisiveness and relentlessly opposing injustice in all its forms, the workers in the Fight for $15 are lighting the way forward for our nation,” said the Rev. William Barber II. “We need to come together across lines of class, race, and gender, and tell our newly elected leaders in one clear voice that we will not let you divide us, oppress us, or take us one step backward in our march towards a more perfect union. The fight for voting rights, living wages, and civil rights are all one fight.”
The striking workers include “airport baggage handlers, Uber drivers, fast-food cooks, cashiers, hospital workers,” as Common Dreams reported, and many actions directly addressed the president-elect’s repressive policy plans: “Immigrants are the heart of the American workforce!” declared workers in Las Vegas, for example.
And widespread solidarity between the striking workers was celebrated on social media, with one video showing hundreds of striking Chicago O’Hare airport employees joined by thousands of supporters:
Incredible show of #Chicago worker power at O’Hare airport. Hundreds on strike. Thousands in #solidarity. #fightfor15 #povertydoesntfly #1u pic.twitter.com/IGmgUZCaZ0
— Fight For 15 Chicago (@chifightfor15) November 29, 2016
The actions caught the attention of politicians, with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tweeting: “In the richest nation on earth, it’s a disgrace that parents working full time are forced to raise their families in poverty.”
“If someone in America works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty,” added Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“I am very proud to stand in solidarity with Airport Workers United and the #Fightfor15 today and every day!” tweeted Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).
“When I talk to people on the picket lines in Minnesota and around the country, they tell me they’re striking for a better life for their kids and their families. They tell me they’re working harder than ever, and still struggling to make ends meet,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). “In the wealthiest country in the world, nobody working full time should be living in poverty. But the power of protest and working people’s voices can make all the difference. Politics might be the art of the possible, but organizing is the art of making more possible. Workers around the country are fighting to make better working conditions and better wages possible. And I stand with them.”Wait, before you go…
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