To commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, “Fight for $15” advocates have launched a nationwide protest for higher pay.
The movement, made up of low-wage workers throughout the country, will join the new Poor People’s Campaign along with civil rights leader William Barber in executing a series of nonviolent demonstrations, according to Ebony.
Specifically, the organization is calling upon activists to go on strike on Feb. 12, which is the day that marks the sanitation workers’ strike anniversary.
“We’re fighting for the same things the sanitation workers fought for: respect and a decent wage,” said Ashley Cathey, a fast-food worker for 11 years who earns $7.53 an hour working for Church’s Chicken in Memphis. “When the sanitation workers had their strike, they inspired other people — they showed us how to fight for better things on the job.”
The collaborative effort seeks to carry on the fight for better wages and union rights that was spearheaded by African-American municipal workers whose protest back in 1968 “became the rallying cry of the Poor People’s campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”
“The word ‘poor’ has virtually been removed from our political discourse and removed from our moral discussion,” Barber said. “We need a re-imagination and resurrection of why Dr. King and so many others went to Memphis and joined in the Poor People’s Campaign."
“We’re bringing two movements together — people fighting for a living wage, a lot of young people, along with poor people, moral leaders, people of faith,” he continued. “We believe we can build a movement that can shift the narrative. Right now, we have an ugly narrative — ‘Elect me, I’ll take away healthcare, I’ll hurt the poor, and I’ll give tax breaks to the wealthy.’”
The Fight For $15 movement has proven effective; overall, as its helped 22 million workers win wage increases since its founding in 2012. Major cities, including Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and most of New York State, have bumped up their minium wages to $15, and other cities and states are following suit.
This initiative goes to show that there is great power in community organizing, and the victories will only continue as the momentum remains high and the workers stand their ground. Enough is enough, and its high time for these hardworking Americans to receive a decent living wage — is that really too much to ask?