The fight for $15

Protesters prepare to march into City Hall on Tuesday. Credit: Photo by Sarah McKenzie

Hundreds of workers and their supporters marched from Northeast to City Hall on Tuesday as part of a massive nationwide campaign calling for a $15 minimum wage and other worker protections.

A broad coalition of low-wage workers, local unions and members of Black Lives Matter ended the march with a large rally at City Hall after holding strikes and press conferences outside of McDonald’s at University and Broadway and Macy’s on Nicollet Mall. 

When they reached City Hall, loud drum beats and chants from the protesters echoed throughout the building — a scene that has become familiar these days. 

An estimated 500 similar protests were held nationwide, according to Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, an organization advocating for low-wage workers.

Michaela Hudson, a member of CTUL and a janitor at Macy’s, said she is struggling to get by on minimum wage. The state’s minimum wage is $9 an hour.

“With having to buy food and trying to pay rent, I can’t find a way to thrive on the wages I’m paid,” she said.

Steven Suffridge, another CTUL member and McDonald’s worker, said he’s been working in fast food for 16 years and has never made more than $9.50 an hour. 

“I haven’t been able to see my family in Oklahoma in almost eight years. It’s not just that I can’t afford the trip – I can’t afford to miss time from work or my bills catch up to me,” he said in a statement. “This past weekend I had to work another 10 hour shift without a break. I’m exhausted but I’m here on strike and ready to march as far as necessary to win what we need.”

The workers also carried signs in support of the #MplsWorks campaign. As part of the city’s Working Families Agenda, the City Council is in the process of forming a new Workplace Regulations Partnership to come up with recommendations for a new city ordinance on paid sick time. 

The City Council has also directed city staff to study the impact of a $12 minimum wage phased in over five years and a $15 minimum wage phased in over five years. It would analyze the economic impact of a Minneapolis minimum wage increase and the impact on the Twin Cities economy if the wage hike included Hennepin and Ramsey counties. The study is expected to be done by March 31, 2016.