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Labor Council

The Fight for $15 and a Union Continues

The Fight for $15 movement “won’t back down,” with protests,
civil disobedience in 340 cities nationwide

Jan.. 2017

With a rallying cry of “Poverty Doesn’t Fly,” Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members joined hundreds of working people at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) November 29 to demand $15 an hour and union rights for all workers. SEIU members from Local 1021, 521, USWW, and 2015 joined Uber drivers, fast food, home care and child care workers and contingent faculty and immigrant justice activists to call attention to the plight of the chronically-underpaid at a time when more and more wealth is being shifted to the richest in our economy.

The SFO action was part of the Fight for $15 National Day of Action that saw rallies in more than 330 cities across the nation. The Fight for $15 is a labor-backed movement that began four years ago when fast food workers walked off their jobs in protest of wages that don’t pay for basic human needs. Since the Fight for $15 began its campaign of grassroots economic change, 22 million workers have seen their wages raised.

Organizers with SEIU Local 521 said the Day of Action sent “a strong message that the fight against greedy corporations that underpay their front-line workforces will continue to intensify regardless of who occupies the White House.”

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement: “Together, we will continue to fight in the streets until greedy corporations and the politicians who favor them over working people take steps to restore the chance for all American families to get ahead. We will not stop until all work is valued and every community has the chance to thrive.”

SEIU Local 1021 Communications Specialist Steve Stallone reported, “Local 1021 members who make less than $15 an hour—in jobs such as school cafeteria workers, bus drivers and adjunct professors—aren’t the only members who struggle when the wage floor is too low; whole communities suffer when underpaid workers have no purchasing power to contribute to the economy.

That’s why we participated in the rally at SFO and will continue fighting to raise the minimum wage in order to hold corporations and the financial institutions that sustain them accountable to the common good.

“The presidential election proved the economy has been taken over by corporations, capital and the wealthy, rigging the rules of employment, politics and government to their advantage and to take obscene profits. There will be future fights ahead and we will need all of our members to come out if we are going to level the playing field and create a just society where the economy works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

Other actions in the Bay Area included a rally outside a McDonald’s in Oakland that ended with nearly 50 workers participating in civil disobedience, shutting down the streets to call attention to their fight for justice.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported, “Demonstrations for a higher hourly wage, which have happened regularly for several years, had a group of new faces Tuesday: Uber and Lyft drivers. Unlike most of the workers at the Bay Area protests, the ride-hailing drivers have no union and are considered independent contractors, leading to a different set of grievances. Many, for instance, pointed to their push for more app transparency—the idea of wanting to know where riders are going before they get in the car.”

“They can’t keep taking us for granted,” Uber driver Richard Ortiz told the Chronicle. He said in the two years he has been a driver, the share of fares taken by the company has increased

Lydia D’Angelo reported on the California Labor Federation blog, “For Adham Shaheen, a rideshare driver with the San Francisco Bay Area Driver Association, the day was about being a voice for his ‘brothers and sisters who work where there is big suffering. There are over 1.5 million of us ride share drivers. We are workers for Uber and Lyft, they have employer control, and we want employee recognition.’”

D’Angelo noted that, “Workers with the Fight for $15 have won significant victories across the nation including a path to a $15 minimum wage in California signed into law this year. The SFO action celebrated and acknowledged how far low-wage workers have come in this fight for justice since their first protest in 2012.”

SEIU members from Local 1021, 521, USWW, and 2015 joined Uber drivers, fast food, home care and child care workers and contingent faculty and immigrant justice activists at the SFO rally November 29. Photos courtesy of SEIU 521.













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