Low-wage workers across the country are protesting and even walking out of work Tuesday as part of what’s being called a “Nationwide Fight for $15 Day of Disruption.”
At noon in St. Petersburg more than 70 workers crammed the steps of City Hall, chanting, holding signs and listening to speeches. Gail Rogers works at the McDonald’s on 21st Street in Ybor City but is striking Tuesday. She makes $8.65 and will be part of a large demonstration outside her workplace this evening.
“So, I mean, I love my job and everything, but, it’s not right for us to be getting paid less money. It’s just the poor millions of people all over the world is fighting for the same right.
“And then for the cost of living, for the immigrants and different ones, it’s no color set, at this time. It’s everybody out now trying to get affordable wages. Affordable wages will be $15 and also with the union.
“I once worked at the Federal Court House where I was getting paid above $10 plus we would get bonuses and also there was a union. At times that I needed someone to fight for me, the union was there for me.
“So, I’m standing up. I am gonna be one of the ones that will be on the front line, there at McDonald’s in Ybor City. If I have to go to jail, I’ll just have to be arrested, because, I feel like we all have rights and that’s part of my rights.”
City Council member Darden Rice pointed to a Florida International University report that found more than half of Florida workers earn less $28,000 a year.
“So, working people are barely escaping poverty, much less thriving. They’re barely paying for anything beyond basic needs.
“Tampa Bay has the lowest per capita income of any major urban area and income inequality is what has hampered our recovery from the recession.
“Economic experts put most of the blame on Tampa Bay’s heavy dependence on low-income jobs that have been added in the last 5 years, that have contributed to these disparities.
“So, thank you everyone, who’s on these steps today. This movement has changed people’s hearts and minds about how wrong it is to have families who are working and working and working, yet who are still in poverty.
“You know, every city has the poor part of town. It has the poor area. It’s as if there’s like some organic way that a city developed that a city will just always have an area where there’s crime, low employment, troubled schools and it just has to go somewhere. But, we don’t connect the dots to realize that decades of disenfranchising people created that poverty by design. It didn’t just happen by accident: passed laws that prohibited black businesses; laws that prevented blacks north of Central Avenue; decisions to build highways through historically black neighborhoods; lack of jobs; discriminatory lending practices; lack of affordable housing. But, this is the thing: if it was created by design, we can fix it by design.”
Rice’s City Council colleagues Karl Nurse and Amy Foster also spoke in favor of a $15 hourly minimum wage.
Organizers say that today there are coast-to-coast strikes and other actions in 300 cities by McDonald’s workers, as well as protests at about 20 airport including a walk-out by baggage handlers and cabin cleaners at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, hospital workers in Pittsburgh and Uber drivers in two dozen cities. They are demanding a fifteen-dollar-an-hour minimum wage and the right to unionize.
Tuesday morning in Tampa fast food workers walked off their jobs as well.
Tuesday afternoon a rally and march was planned in support of striking workers beginning at Centennial Park in Tampa’s Ybor City.