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Underpaid Workers across California Mobilize to Win $15 and a Union

December 2015

Thousands of underpaid workers across California mobilized November 10 in a historic show of solidarity for higher wages, social justice and equality in cities from San Diego to Sacramento. There are 3.2 million workers in California paid less than $15/hr.


Hundreds of fast-food, home care, retail and child care workers gathered in Oakland November 10 to call for a $15 an hour minimum wage and union rights.

Striking workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s joined home care, child care, and other low-wage workers at a massive afternoon rallies at City Halls—part of 500 protests nationwide to demand that elected leaders everywhere stand up for $15 an hour and union rights.

Cymone Fillmore, a mother from San Diego and a fast food worker for three years who currently works at Wienerschnitzel said, “The Fight for $15 isn’t about any one individual. It’s about the community standing together and saying we’ll all be better off with a stronger wage floor. Too many people aren’t making it on $9 an hour. I can’t make ends meet on the minimum wage we are getting paid. We need $15, and paid sick days, to meet the basic necessities for ourselves and our families. This initiative gives us hope that we can win the Fight for $15 to make the economy work for all Californians, not just the rich.”

In Los Angeles, California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski and environmental activist Tom Steyer joined thousands to rally in support of low-wage workers in a variety of industries including home care, child care, garment and fast-food.

“This is a movement now—led by working people who want a living wage,” Pulaski: said. “Working people who demand respect on the job. Working people who won’t settle for anything less than $15 AND A UNION!”

It has been three years since workers launched their movement for higher pay and union rights in New York City. In those three years, the demand for $15/hr has already helped to lift wages across the nation and has defined the 2016 presidential race. Yet there are still millions of workers bringing home poverty wages after a hard days work. Forty-two percent of workers in America are paid less than $15, including 48 percent of women, 54 percent of African Americans, and 60 percent of Latinos.

Nationwide, workers are taking their Fight for $15 and union rights to the ballot box to show candidates of all political stripes that the more than 60 million Americans paid less than $15/hr are a voting bloc that can no longer be ignored.

A recent poll of workers paid less than $15/hr commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69 percent of unregistered voters would register to vote if there was a candidate who supported $15/hr and a union; and that 65 percent of registered voters paid less than $15/hr would be more likely to vote if there was a candidate who supported $15/hr and a union. Seventy-six percent of the underpaid workers surveyed said they would pledge to vote for candidates who support $15 and a union. That’s 48 million potential voters who could turn out if there were candidates who backed higher pay and union rights.

Over the next year, the Fight for $15 movement plans to engage this untapped voter group around issues of higher pay, union rights, improved child care and home care, racial justice and immigration reform—issues identified by underpaid workers as key factors in whether they will go to the polls for a candidate.

- Steve Smith & Rachel Johnson
California Labor Federation











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