|Raise up movement for higher wages shows no signs of slowing|
|Movement building momentum across U.S.|
|Published Saturday, November 21, 2015 8:04 pm|
DURHAM – The Raise Up movement has swept the South - and the nation – with low-wage workers calling for a minimum wage increase to $15. What started as a small union has become an international movement that shows no sign of slowing down.
“You have a right to raise up for $15. You have a right to call for childcare for all working families. You have a right to affordable home care for the elderly and the disabled. You have a right to address the lasting impact of racism towards black America, and you have a right to push immigration reform,” N.C. NAACP President William Barber told a crowd gathered in downtown Durham.
The American standards of poverty state that a family of three living on $20,091 annually is not considered “poor.” Barber said this is a lie and encouraged politicians to try to live off the same sum. The Economist recently published an article that said with the wealth the nation currently has, one would expect the minimum wage to be at least $12 in America.
The minimum wage has not kept pace with growth and inflation since 1968.
“We’ve been arguing about whether raising the minimum wage kills jobs for over a century, and there is not a single bit of credible evidence that that is true,” said Patrick McHugh with the N.C. Justice Center. “From 1949-68, we raised the minimum wage from four dollars an hour to the equivalent of $10 an hour, and that was one of the strongest periods in economic history.”
McHugh said raising the minimum wage does not mean people are going to take lavish vacations and buy designer handbags, but will subsequently put more money back into the local economy as workers are more able to afford goods and services.
The Raise Up movement has also become part of the #blacklivesmatter movement as the majority of low-wage workers are minorities. Fifty percent of black workers make less than $15 an hour.
“We support the #blacklivesmatter movement and support an end to these killings of black and brown people. It’s mostly black people fighting for $15 and union rights, and many of us have experienced police racism and abuse,” said Eric Winston, a rally member in the Fight for 15. “We know when we talk about work in this country, especially the south, we have to talk about race. Poverty is violence and too many black workers here in Durham are being pushed out, harassed and killed. We need change in this country. Black and brown workers are the most overworked and the most underpaid.”
Leticia Selby, a child care worker, said she wants politicians to know they are voters and they are qualified workers, and she wants them to stand with her as a contributing citizen.
“We didn’t come out here today just to make noise; we are a voice in the south. We will not be satisfied until we get $15,” she said. “We need to stop allowing them to rob us.”
Nobel Peace Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz has noted that low levels of education and low wages kill as many people in America as heart attacks, stroke and lung cancer. Over 119,000 die every year because of income inequality.
“We bust our butts each and every day to make sure that we can take care of our families,” said Naquasia Legrand, one of the first fast food workers to go on strike in New York in 2012.
Legrand has a child and said that at the end of the day, the fight she is fighting is for her son.
“I just want politicians to know on this night that either you’re going to be with us or you’re going to be against us,” she said. “If you’re against us, you better look at the people that are out here. In order to keep this movement alive, if we struggle together, we must stand together.”
Brian Profitt, a teacher with Organize 2020, said the Fight for 15 is also an education issue.
“We hear a lot about the ‘achievement gap.’ They say it exists because we have bad teachers. I say the achievement gap has existed for over 400 years. The achievement gap began when the first enslaved African was kidnapped and brought here and exploited for their labor.
“It continues during Jim Crow, and it continues today. The achievement gap is a problem in our whole society,” he said. “I can tell you as a teacher, the way to close the achievement gap is to make sure people’s parents have economic stability. (We need to) make sure that folks have good health care, decent housing, a living wage, transportation and don’t have to be stressed out all the time.”
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