Activists and RVA community members gather for $15/hour minimum wage

by | Apr 20, 2015 | POLITICS

​“We’re not living in a society that wants to take care of us, we’re living in a society that thrives on poverty” said Charles Brown, a Newport News Wal-Mart worker as he addressed a crowd of students

​“We’re not living in a society that wants to take care of us, we’re living in a society that thrives on poverty” said Charles Brown, a Newport News Wal-Mart worker as he addressed a crowd of students and low-paid workers in Monroe Park last Wednesday.

The nationwide Fight for $15/hour came to Richmond last Wednesday, with workers, union members, students, and supporters from all over Central Virginia coming down and showing their interest in the cause.

Wednesday the 15th was the movement’s nationwide day of action (4/15 for $15), with the organization planning demonstrations in over 230 cities and college campuses around the US.

The Fight for $15 campaign was started by the Service Employees International Union in late 2012, and initially focused on fast-food workers. Since then, the group’s organizers have used the campaign’s power to rally behind low-wage workers in all fields around the country, including home care workers, big box store workers, and airport workers, just to name a few.

The day’s events started at 6 in the morning, when the movement’s local Richmond organizers brought out a crowd of over 50 to stage a protest at the McDonalds on Broad st.

From there, the group sat in on a General Assembly meeting, where they were introduced by Delegate Marcus B. Simon.

Image via Del. Simon’s facebook page

Del. Simon introduced a bill earlier this year which pushed for a $15/h minimum wage across the Commonwealth.

“Higher wages are the best way to stimulate economic growth, allowing people to spend more money and increase consumption that will boost the local, regional and state economy,” said Del. Simon in a press release sent out earlier this year explaining his interest in the wage-increase.

After the GA visit, there was another protest outside of the Kroger on Staples Mill Rd in Henrico.

The day’s events culminated in Monroe Park, where a rally was held, which transitioned into a march to the McDonalds on Chamberlayne.

At the rally, many aspects of the realities of supporting a family with a minimum wage job were explored, including the difficulties new immigrants to the US face.

From there, the diverse crowd, including low-income workers of all ages, marched from the park to McDonalds, where a worker came out and addressed the crowd on the unfair working conditions she faces every day right here in Richmond.

The abundance of community support was palpable during the march, with workers standing in solidarity in the stores that the march passed by.

“As of 1968, the minimum wage was $1.60- this means $10.90 in today’s buying power. Since then, the value of the minimum wage has only eroded, meaning that minimum-wage workers today are paid significantly less than minimum wage workers almost fifty years ago.” said Jason Lambert, an organizer from Roanoke, VA who came down to help lead to the day’s action. “As corporate profits have increased in the US in the decades since then, the exploitative nature of big businesses is painfully clear.”

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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