In rallies that coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Memphis, Tenn., sanitation workers strike, restaurant workers marched Monday in a number of cities in ongoing efforts for a $15 an hour minimum wage.
Protestors in Florida and North Carolina to Wisconsin and Michigan marked the anniversary of the 1968 sanitation workers strike in Memphis, which came in the wake of two garbage collectors being crushed to death by a malfunctioning truck.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, who went to Memphis to support the strike, was assassinated there on April 4, 1968.
“The message of sanitation workers 50 years ago is the same message spoken by fast-food workers today: ‘I am a man,’” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, in a statement.
“They carry the fight forward so that the value of their work is reflected in dignity and fair treatment in their workplace.”
Bridget Hughes, a Burger King employee who helped spearhead the movement in Kansas City, Mo., told TV station KSHB, “It may not be as bad as it was 50 years ago, obviously. But we do face the same things on the job. We are discriminated against, we don't have the money to be able to support our families, we're barely scraping by.”
On social media, a number of local union organizers were posting reports of the protests from Florida and Michigan to Atlanta and Greenville, N.C.
In Kansas City, Mo., labor, faith, civic and community leaders planned to meet at a McDonald's restaurant at noon to support a $15 minimum wage.
The Kansas City restaurant workers have announced they will participate in six weeks of civil disobedience starting on Mother’s Day, which is May 13, as part of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
In Detroit, restaurant workers were to be joined by Poor People’s Campaign activists as well.
Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield was planning to join Fight for $15 restaurant workers with hospital employees and members of Service Employees International Union Local 1.
“We're going to send a message to corporations and politicians that their time of rigging the economy against workers is over,” said the Rev. W.J. Rideout, one of the Detroit protest organizers. “We have to stand up and fight back.”
The restaurant industry is Michigan’s second largest private employer, contributing nearly $17 billion to Michigan’s economy annually, according to the Michigan Restaurant Association.
In Milwaukee, Wis., groups were protesting for a $15-an-hour minimum wage for workers at Mitchell International Airport.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy met at Passaic City Hall with other lawmakers and employee representatives to discuss wages.
“Too many workers are unable to make ends meet and provide for their families, despite working full-time,” Murphy said in a Tweet. “Building a stronger and fairer state means raising the minimum wage to $15/hour and expanding paid sick leave.”
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