200-plus gather in push for bump in minimum wage
LOS ANGELES/CHICAGO (Reuters) — Workers from fast-food chains and nearly 20 airports joined nationwide protests for higher pay, union rights and immigration reform on Tuesday in their first major action since businessman Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election.
McDonald's Corp restaurants in 340 cities are prime rally targets, while baggage handlers and cabin cleaners at Chicago's O'Hare and Boston's Logan international airports were to demonstrate in support of workers demanding starting pay of $15 per hour, organizers of the "Fight for $15" campaign said.
More than 200 protesters held a pre-dawn rally in New York City's Zuccotti Park, about half a block from a McDonald's restaurant, where they banged on drums and chanted slogans calling for a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
"I'm out here because I can't feed my kids," said Terrence Wise, 37, of Kansas City. The McDonald's worker and national organizing committee member makes $9 an hour.
Home health and child care providers, and some drivers for ride service Uber Technologies Inc planned to join the action, which is backed by the Service Employees International Union.
Last year Trump said U.S. workers' wages were "too high" and made the nation uncompetitive, but this year, he has said the minimum wage should rise, with states taking the lead.
Hopes of an increase in the $7.25-per-hour federal minimum wage were dashed earlier in November by the election of a Republican-controlled Congress, but advocates say they will continue to press for increases at state and local levels.
"We've already run a path to $15 (per hour) in states like California and New York, and we're not stopping now," said LiAnne Flakes, a 40-year-old child care worker from Tampa, Florida, who said she planned to protest.
Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington raised their state minimum wages in November, and labour groups are considering campaigns in states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New Mexico.
Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU in New York, said Trump won the election by promising jobs for voters who were not able to see a way toward success for themselves or their children.
"There is no question to us that this is a moment that working people need to take action, mobilize, organize, and that (Trump) needs to be held accountable for his promises," Figueroa said.
Protesters also are likely to criticize Trump's promise to deport up to 3 million undocumented workers with criminal records and his treatment of women and Muslims.
McDonald's said in a statement that it invested in its workers by helping them to earn degrees and on-the-job skills. Franchisees, which own most U.S. fast-food restaurants, set wages for their employees.