Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage

Report on living wage activism, produced by Jenna Pope.

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Story Transcript

CROWD: What do we want? Fifteen! When do we want it? Now!

PROTESTER: I’m from Scotland, Glasgow. I’m coming here to help build the movement for $15 Now. It is extremely important that people realize in the U.S. that the struggles of American workers are followed all around the world.

But it’s really inspiring today to see people in Brooklyn standing up, those people in Manhattan rallying today. But in 21 cities across the United States there’s $15 Now rallies today. There’s going to be 1,000 people in Seattle marching for $15 Now. We’re building a mass movement, a mass movement that’s going to shake the world.

ALAN AKRIVOS: We are fighting for a minimum wage that is really—that’s the beginnings of a living wage. Mostly 98 percent of the gains of the so-called economic recovery have gone to the top 1 percent. We see billions and billions being made, and working people cannot survive with, you know, basically the minimum wage the way it is now. People live in poverty without—and they can work full-time, and they need welfare, they need food stamps in order to feed their own families. So we think this disgrace has to stop. We think we need a living wage. Fifteen is a first step in that direction.

CROWD: What do we want? Fifteen! When do we want it? Now!

PROTESTER: Two years ago, the first fast food strike happened in New York, and they’ve now happened all over the country. There was one here last December. Brooklyn has had more fast food stores organized, involved in some way with the fast food workers’ struggle than any other part of this city. Low-wage workers in this city are prepared to get up and fight for their rights and fight to improve things. And it’s time for us to build a movement that everybody can be involved in to make that happen here.

PROTESTER: You saw the fast food strikes before Christmas. Millions of people across the world and in Britain were inspired by the videos on YouTube, by the memes on Facebook, with fast food workers holding up signs for a living wage and for $15 an hour, because there’s a crisis across the world caused by the rich, caused by big business, and caused by the bankers. They were bailed out, and they’ve increased their profits and taken more and more profits while our wages have fallen and while people’s living standards have been attacked. And workers are fighting for a living wage in the U.S., but we’re also fighting for a living wage in the U.K. and in Europe and across the world.

CROWD: Fifteen! When do want it? Now! What do we want? Fifteen!

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PROTESTER: We should have $15. What is $15?

PROTESTER: Not enough!

PROTESTER: Nineteen sixty-three, they asked for $2 minimum wage at the march for freedom and justice in Washington, D.C. You know Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream”? They had economic demands. Two dollars. That’s $15.29 today. So it’s—we’re just catching up to what we wanted in 1963. If the minimum wage had kept up from 1968 to today with productivity—that’s how much we produce for every hour we work—it’d be over $25. Fifteen is a moderate demand. Fifteen would get a family of four to the point just where they start to qualify for food stamps, 130 percent of poverty. You know, if you’re working full-time, you should at least be able to pay the grocery bill, right? Fifteen dollars will get you there.

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PROTESTER: Hold the burgers, hold the fries! We want wages supersized!

TED ALEXANDRO: I came out today because I think it’s a really important cause to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which in fact would still qualify people for food stamps. So it’s really not an outrageous demand to ask for $15 an hour. But really what we have now is people working for poverty wages. So I really think this is something that affects everyone and that it’s something that we really have to get behind and fight for.

CROWD: What do we want? Fifteen! When do we want it? Now!

End

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