Unions make LA ground zero for raise the wage movement

LOS ANGELES – Unions, workers, small businesses owners, non-profit community organizations, and educators, numbering in the thousands, marched yesterday down Figueroa Street, a major business corridor here, toward the University of Southern California (USC) to demand a minimum wage of $15.

Californians, from Berkeley to San Diego, were out in force in yesterday’s Global Day of Action to raise the wage.

Among the many unions backing the action in LA were the United Long Term Care Workers Union (SEIU/ULTCW), United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), Interns & Residents (SEIU/CIR) California Nurses Association, United Firefighters of LA City, SEIU Local 99, AFSCME, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the California State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

Art Pulaski, Secretary-Treasurer of the California State Federation of Labor, stood atop a flat-bed truck looking out over a sea of diverse workers and community supporters claiming that “Our time has come. We are not going back. We will disrupt, demand, organize but we will not stop until we get what we want, Fight for the $15. Workers deserve a raise.”

According to a number of research studies including one by the Economic Roundtable, a non-profit public policy research organization and the Center for Labor Research and Education of UC Berkeley, 800,000 people in LA County work at minimum wage jobs and live below the poverty line.

Christina Novo, organizer with the Laundry Workers, walked down Figueroa with a spirited group of laundry workers. “We are here supporting the raise in the minimum wage because laundry workers are low wage workers,” she said. “We are in the same economic status as fast food workers. We are in this fight to win.”

Novo pointed to the workers marching down the street. “Those workers, mostly immigrants, work for long hours in difficult jobs. They want a livable wage so they can improve their lives. That is why we are here.”

Another worker and member of SEIU, Local 6434, Evelyn Butler said, “We need powerful organizations, unions are powerful organizations. SEIU, AFSCME, other labor unions, keep us connected. We don’t just want a raise to $15. We want a raise and a union. Look around this is what the power of workers looks like but it will take all of us to win.”

Jabir Ranger, a 22-year-old McDonald’s worker, chanted over a microphone: “I have a story, I have a story.” Ranger can’t afford to live in Los Angeles with the pay his employers provide. The pay is so low that he tries to get more hours. It is hard for him to get the hour hours he needs to make a little more money. This young man said that his story is not unusual and that he believes in the power of the movement.

The march started with a rally in front of a local McDonald’s on 28th and Figueroa Street and continued down Figueroa Street onto the University of California campus where another rally took place in support of USC faculty seeking union representation.

USC is one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. Low-wage workers and community supporters chanted “I have a story. This is union territory.”

Video by Rossana Cambron.

Photo: SEIU Home Health Care worker with his patient.   |  Blake Deppe/PW


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