U.S. presidential candidates and their supporters will encounter sustained protests from supporters of the Fight for $15 movement and labor unions during this fall’s presidential and vice presidential debates.
Thousands of Americans who work for low wages on Saturday joined forces during the first-ever Fight for $15 convention in Richmond, Virginia, and signed the Richmond Resolution, a vow to intensify the fight for a living wage.
The Richmond Resolution vows that its signees will hold elected officials accountable on Election Day and every day thereafter.
“The work we do generates billions of dollars in profits and makes our country stronger. But we are paid so little that far too many of us are living on the edge and cannot afford our basic needs, trapping us in poverty,” the resolution reads.
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The name of the two-page document not only acknowledges the place where it originated, but the former capitol of the Confederacy. Organizers said they convened in Richmond to highlight racist policies that still hold back families of color in 2016.
Fight for $15, which contends that 64 million Americans work for less than a living wage, committed to engage in rallies at state capitols nationwide on September 12. Those rallies, which will be part of the Moral Revival Movement for a National Day of Action, will call on lawmakers to “advance moral policies like a living wage, voting rights and criminal justice reform,” Fight for $15 said.
“This year, underpaid Americans will show elected leaders in every state in America that they are a voting bloc that cannot be ignored and will not be denied,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union, a supporter of Fight for $15.
The Rev. William Barber II, an architect of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina and the founder of the social justice group Repairers of the Breach, said in a statement that advancement has always been the result of unity.
“Every step forward in our nation’s history—every stride toward a more perfect union—has been the result of people coming together, pushed by a moral movement towards higher ground,” Barber said. “It took us 400 years from slavery to the present to reach $7.25, but that was far too long, and we can’t wait. We have to stand together and fight together now for $15 and union rights.”
The Richmond Resolution vows to support legislative actions to raise the minimum wage in Alabama and other states that were once part of the Confederacy.
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) Action Fund, a project of The Advocacy Fund that researches issues affecting people who are unemployed or work for low wages, this month highlighted how the fight for a living wage has permeated U.S. political races.
NELP Action said U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty, for example, is “edging out” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) by focusing her campaign on boosting the minimum wage and other economic issues that would help people who work low-paying jobs.
Likewise, former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold—an outspoken advocate for higher wages—continues to lead incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in the polls. Feingold leads Johnson by 11.3 points, according to polling data from Real Clear Politics.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities fellow Jared Bernstein noted in the Washington Post that Seattle’s minimum wage increase has helped grow the city’s economy. That follows warnings from business lobbies across the country that increasing the minimum wage would devastate local economies.
Bernstein cited a study published by the Seattle Minimum Wage Study Team at the University of Washington showing that the city’s minimum wage ordinance has effectively raised the wages of low-income workers by “seven percentage points more than might otherwise have occurred.”