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Fast Food Workers March In Milwaukee For $15 Minimum Wage

Scott Olson/Staff/Getty Images
Demonstrators fighting for a $15 per hour minimum wage march through downtown Chicago, Illinois on May 23, 2017.

Dozens of fast food workers marched in Milwaukee on Wednesday in favor of a minimum wage increase and a right to unionize. This was a part of nationwide effort to get local employers to increase their minimum hourly wage to $15.

Solo Littlejohn is a fast food worker and one of the people who called for a higher minimum wage at a rally on the city's near north side.

“Firefighters, police officers have some of the strongest unions in America. But we, the fast food workers, make these corporations some of the most money in America — but we don’t even have a right to a union. So, this is why we’re here today,” says Littlejohn.

The current minimum wage in Wisconsin is $7.25 and has been for the past eight years. That’s less than half of what workers are demanding. Many say $7.25 just isn’t enough.

“As a mom, as a single mom, you gotta work two jobs. I’m about to get a third job just to be able to make it,” says Wanda Lavender. “I’m not making enough with both jobs just to survive. You gotta do something or else you gonna be out on the middle of the street with kids.”

She says the increase to a $15 minimum wage would make a big difference for her.

“It’s extremely important. If I get that $15 an hour, I be able to sit up there and can start working towards owning my own home,” Lavender explains.

The Rev. Liz Theoharis is a Milwaukee native and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. She says she's pleased that efforts to boost worker wages across the country are finally paying off.

"Just like yesterday, we hear that Amazon is gonna pay its workers $15 an hour," Theoharis says. "It's because of the hard work and fighting that low wage workers have been doing for years now, that we can have that kind of victory."

The protesters in Milwaukee joined in solidarity with those at similar events around the country this week.

After the rally on North Avenue, activists marched toward a nearby McDonald's where they demonstrated outside, forcing managers to shut the restaurant down. About two dozen people were arrested.

Despite the momentum behind the Fight For $15 initiative, fast food employers may not answer the call for higher wages.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association released a statement Wednesday, saying mandatory minimum wage increases drive up consumer costs. The statement said: "Employers should be able to decide on wages instead of having the government decide this for them.”

Angelina Mosher Salazar joined WUWM in 2018 as the Eric Von Broadcast Fellow. She was then a reporter with the station until 2021.
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