Fight for $15

The campaign to raise the minimum wage in San Francisco was inspired by the worldwide struggle of fast food workers at McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s to get a $15 per hour wage and a union.

In 2012, the fight for a $15 minimum wage for fast food employees began with 200 workers protesting during a one day strike involving 60 fast food restaurants in New York. Due to the increasing income inequality and a federal minimum wage that had been frozen for years, citywide protests began, demanding higher wages that allow opportunities for fast food workers and their families to live, not just survive. With 70 percent of fast food workers being 20 years or older, the fast food industry should not be considered a starter job for teenagers. For many, it is the only available means to support their families.

While these transnational corporations claim that each McDonald’s outlet is its own small business, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the corporations are joint employers along with their franchisees, which makes it easier for workers to unionize. It also places responsibility on the corporations to prevent wage theft.

In recent protests, home care workers have joined the fast food workers, expanding the fight to include more low wage workers in the service industry. Mark Kay Henry, president of the Service Employment International Union, stated, “This movement has made the impossible more possible in people’s minds.” The campaign has grown to 150 cities nationwide with solidarity protests in over 30 countries.

The Fight for $15 inspired Seattle, San Francisco, and New York to adopt a municipal minimum wage. In the November 2014 elections, San Francisco voted on an amendment to the existing minimum wage law that would raise the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2018. Although this is a great start, San Francisco fast food workers continue to organize towards building a larger community of support for low wage workers, and creating a platform for necessary change.

The San Francisco Living Wage Coalition is proud to support the Fight for $15 Movement, as well as similar causes that fight for economic justice and the right to unionize without retaliation. A higher minimum wage is a great improvement in San Francisco, but not all employers are complying with these new laws, nor are they honoring their workers’ rights to organize without retaliation.

Written by Charlotte Abel