By JoAnne Powers, July 27, 2016
The 2016 Democratic Party platform includes a call for a minimum-wage increase to fifteen dollars an hour. The Fight for Fifteen, launched by fast food workers in New York in 2012, is demanding the fifteen dollar wage and the right to join a union. The campaign has won victories in several cities and states. In an event at the Philadelphia headquarters of Service Employees International Union 32BJ during the Democratic National Convention this week, union leaders and Democratic Party delegates vowed to continue the fight until federal law follows suit.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti worked with SEIU in fighting for a 15$ minimum wage in his city, and 600,000 Angelenos will get a raise this month, with annual increases leading to 15 dollars by 2020.
[Eric Garcetti]: “Right now you have the media and the national attention here in Philadelphia, but what they’re focused on right now is division. But I’m going to announce something: that every Bernie Sanders supporter, and every Hillary Clinton supporter, and I’m gonna even go further: a majority of Donald Trump supporters, support a minimum wage raise in this country. A majority of Republicans, a majority of Democrats, a majority of independents, and let’s get rid of the labels, Americans want the minimum wage to go up. So, we can focus on the things that divide us and the politics that make the headlines, or we can do the hard work of the policies that move us forward. That’s what we’re doing in American’s cities, and that’s what we’re doing in America’s states.”
Airport workers seeking a fifteen dollar minimum wage and the right to unionize had voted to strike during the DNC, when 50,000 attendees would be flying into Philadelphia. The strike was averted after the SEIU reached an agreement with American Airlines allowing baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants and other service workers to vote to form a union. Garcetti and other delegates reached out personally to American Airlines. Hector Figueroa of SEIU 32BJ says the process was very simple:
[Hector Figueroa]: “Elected officials, and not just elected officials but many delegates who were elected to be at this convention, understood that airport workers, just like all other low wage workers in this country need to make enough money to be able to support their families, and that fifteen and a union, is a demand that American Airlines, and other companies that employ the contractors that in turn employ the workers at substandard wages, should really be open to and supportive of. So, what these elected officials did was to appeal to American Airlines to take the higher road of really entertaining the discussions with the unions of how the needs and demands of the workers for a union, for a better wage, for better conditions could be satisfied. It says that a tide in the country is changing. When you have an entire set of delegates and elected officials who are appealing to a major corporation who in turn listens to that and then decides to sit down with the unions to figure a path for the workers to exercise a right to collective bargaining, it gives us a tremendous amount of hope, but it would not have happened without the workers showing the courage to take action and the public supporting them in the way that they did.”