DETROIT - "Rebuilding the new American middle class is going to begin right here in the Big D," said Service Employees International President Mary Kay Henry as she walked the fast food workers picket line here in front of Church's Chicken.
Fast food workers went on strike in a half dozen Michigan cities as well as over 60 cities, towns and suburbs nationwide, Aug. 29, from Detroit to New York to St. Louis to Washington D.C. and beyond, driving home how fast this movement for dignity and a 15 dollar an hour wage is spreading.
Henry pointed out that like autoworkers at the beginning of the last century, who said they deserve to feed their families on the wages they make, these workers are standing up for "making service jobs, good jobs."
Church's employee Charlotte Gandy joined the picketing because after three and one-half years of working hard at her job, she still makes $7.40, the state's minimum wage.
It was for people like Gandy that Henry said this campaign must and will succeed. Henry said these are not starter jobs anymore and they are not worked by high school students; the average age is 28. Many have families to support and thirty percent have college degrees but are trapped because they can't find anything else. "We have to do something to improve these jobs," she declared.
"Fifty years ago today some said we couldn't get rid of segregation that it would be here forever and never change. But some unreasonable radical optimist said we believe we can do better," he said, paying tribute to the mighty movement led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He noted that Republicans also represent people who make "slave wages" too and they need to be sensitive to their constituents. "Politicians see the light when they feel the heat," he added.
Unions, community groups and faith leaders swelled the morning picket line, one of many planned throughout Detroit and surrounding communities today.
Bishop A. Barnes from Hamtramck said people can't make it on $7.40 an hour. It's time for us to move up to another level.
For Detroit, a city under attack, the benefits are clear to Barnes, "It will lift-up the city 100 percent. If people make more money, they will have more money to spend."
Photo: SEIU's Mary Kay Henry, left, stands with a Church's worker at Detroit rally for fast food strikers, Aug. 29. (PW/John Rummel)