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Miami’s working families join nationwide Fight for 15 marches on April 15

Local groups also eyeing fight for living wages from tax-funded projects

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2015
Contact: Jackie de Carvalho, Jackie.deCarvalho@seiufl.org561-287-2879
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Following last week’s paltry pay increase announcement by McDonald’s we will continue to demand $15 an hour and the right to a union without retaliation. South Florida will join the nationwide rallys on April 15 with events planned in the following locations:

  • Fort Lauderdale: 8:00 am – Rally at Fort Lauderdale airport outside of terminal 3, 2nd floor
  • Miami: 5:30 pm – Rally starting at Greater Bethel AME Church - 245 NW 8th St, Miami, Florida 33136 in Overtown followed by a march into downtown Miami.

Miami—Miami Employees ranging from fast-food cooks to adjunct professors said Monday that they are planning to participate in the largest-ever mobilization of underpaid workers —a series of tax day strikes, marches and rallies that will crisscross the entire nation and reach countries from Brazil to Japan— calling for wages that boost the economy and the freedom to join together in unions without retaliation.

For the first time since fast-food workers walked off their jobs in November, 2012, sparking a nationwide movement for $15 and union rights, college students will join the coast-to-coast protests, with students from more than 170 universities planning campus rallies and marches including the University of South Florida. And the Fight For $15’s connection to the #BlackLivesMatter movement will continue to deepen, as the fights for racial and economic justice come together as one.

Workers chose tax day—4/15— to highlight their demand for $15 an hour and to call on profitable corporations to stop paying workers’ wages so low that they can’t afford basic needs without taxpayers’ help through public assistance programs like food stamps.

“I’m tired of struggling for a million dollar company for so little pay,” said Laura Rollins, a McDonald’s worker who participated in the last September’s Fight for 15 strikes and was arrested for the cause. Rollins is a 63 year old grandmother from Fort Lauderdale who says, “Making $15 an hour for me would be a tremendous help in my life. The extra money would mean a lot to me because I could pay an extra bill instead of living paycheck to paycheck. I’m not just doing this for me but so my grandchildren won't have to struggle so much. I believe we can win this fight.”

Locally, many groups see a path to victory by taking on often unpopular publicly funded development projects. One current project, the Miami World Center, is seeking a $100 million dollars to build the second largest proposed development in the country right next to one of Miami’s most storied and neglected African American communities, Overtown. Despite seeking public funds, this project doesn’t guarantee any permanent living wage jobs to any of the residents that the development may displace. Many community leaders have harnessed their outrage by setting their sights on demanding living wages for all future taxpayer funded projects.

“In Miami, the Fight for 15 means that you can’t come into our community, take our communities’ money to build your business and then return the favor by giving us either no jobs or poverty jobs.” said Bishop Adams of Overtown’s St. John’s Baptist Church. His church plans to mobilize congregants for the April 15 march, which will pass the Miami World Center project on its way downtown.

On April 15, fast-food workers, homecare workers, airport workers, adjunct professors, clergy and community leaders like Bishop Adams will join forces to Fight for 15. They will be available for comment in the weeks before the march.

Voices from the Fight for $15

Molita Spaulding, home care worker from Miami, FL

“I’ve dedicated my career to caring for other people. I love my work, and it matters a lot to a lot of families. But my job pays me so little that it’s harder and hard to make ends meet. I stepped up  to join the Fight for $15 with my co workers to speak out for stable, quality home care a wage we can live on. We help people live with dignity. We should be paid enough to pay our own bills.”

Regina Garcia, home care worker from Miami, FL
“It would mean everything to me to get $15 an hour because what I’m getting now is just not enough. I can hardly pay my bills working two jobs. I can’t even get a good night’s sleep because the work that I do caring for others is a 24 hour a day job for very little pay. I hope we can win this and I’ll be there on the 15th.”

Additional info: The Fight for $15 Goes Expands Beyond One Sector

Indeed, the Fight for $15 is no longer just made up of fast-food workers. Inspired by cooks and cashiers from restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King, adjunct professors, who are calling for $15,000 per course, have joined in, along with home care, child care, airport, and Walmart workers. For several months, these workers have been organizing and mobilizing for the 4/15 protests in their cities and regions, joined by college students, who have launched Fight for $15 chapters on campuses throughout the country, and advocates from more than 2,000 partner groups, including the NAACP, the Moral Mondays movement, the coalition of groups organizing around #BlackLivesMatter, the Center for Popular Democracy, the International Union of Foodworkers, MoveOn.org, Credo, and many others.

In Overtown community members, low wage workers, faith leaders and labor union members will come together for a march demanding living wages and local hiring from those seeking taxpayer money for the multi-million dollar World Center Project. This has been a contentious and controversial project between Overtown residents and the wealthy developers from the start. So the Overtown community is joining forces with the Fight for 15 movement for what is expected to be a huge event with people coming from all over South Florida to join this historic day.

The campaign has also continued to spread across the globe, with strikes planned for 4/15 in Italy, and several other countries, store occupations set for several European capitals, and other protests planned in as many as 40 countries on six continents.

“The fast-food industry is dominated by a handful of multi-billion-dollar global companies, so we need to have a strong, global movement of workers pushing   better wages, better treatment and better rights,” said Massimo Frattini, the international coordinator of the International Union of Foodworkers, which is coordinating the global protests. “By coming together across borders, fast-food workers have an opportunity to transform the industry all over the world.”

The global protests, and the first strikes outside the U.S. to be coordinated with the Fight for $15, come as McDonald’s is coming under increased scrutiny for both its treatment of workers and its questionable corporate citizenship around the world. In Brazil, a coalition of trade unions has filed two lawsuits accusing the company of widespread and systematic labor and health and safety violations. One of the suits accuses McDonald’s of “social dumping,” an anti-competitive practice that drives standards down for workers across the country, and seeks to prevent the company from opening new stores unless it complies with Brazilian law.

In Europe, McDonald's is being accused by a coalition of trade unions and the UK-based NGO War on Want of avoiding more than €1 billion in taxes over the last five years. And on Monday, The New York Times reported that the European Commission’s Directorate of Competition launched a preliminary investigation to find out whether McDonald’s entered into an illegal deal with Luxembourg that allowed it to avoid taxes.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the federal government Monday launched a case against McDonald’s, accusing the fast-food giant of rampant labor-law violations, and arguing that the corporate parent, and not just franchisees, are responsible for the illegal actions. This is all on top of suits alleging wage theft and racism in the US; more than two-dozen complaints filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging McDonald’s workers are being burned on the job, with many told to use condiments like mustard to ease the pain; and the more than $1 billion in public assistance taxpayers spend on its employees here.

Changing How America Thinks About Wages

What seemed two years ago like a far-fetched goal—$15 an hour—is now not so crazy. In February, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio called for an increase in New York City’s minimum wage to $15 by 2019. In Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Union asked the Board of Education to pay $15 an hour to all  workers in schools and in December, Chicago lawmakers voted to raise the minimum wage to $13. In Washington, workers won $15 in Seattle, where Bloomberg News said the city adopted “the rallying cry of fast-food workers,” and in SeatTac, where local low-wage airport workers played a leading role in winning a historic wage increase.

And in November, San Francisco became the third city in the U.S. to adopt a $15 minimum wage. Since the first fast-food strike in 2012, 9 million low-wage workers have gotten raises through local ballot measures, city and state legislation, contract negotiations and employer policy changes—more workers than are in private sector unions in the entire country.

 

The urgent need for solutions to America’s low-wage crisis is already emerging as a key issue in the run-up to the 2016 election. In The New York Times, David Leonhardt wrote, “[a]s the 2016 presidential campaign begins to stir, the central question will be how both parties respond to the great wage slowdown.” And Democrats and leading economic experts are increasingly looking to restore Americans’ rights to form unions as a way to bring balance back to the economy and create jobs that enable more communities to thrive.

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