Thousands of activists and demonstrators took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles Tuesday, aiming to convince legislators to boost the federal minimum wage to $15.
The protest took place at 11 a.m. outside a McDonald’s restaurant on the corner of Seventh and Alameda street. The organized march saw activists and protesters holding up signs and chanting slogans that advocated fair working conditions and income equality. A protest on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall followed the march.
Cal State Fullerton senior Sopha Chin said that the proposed $15 minimum wage wouldn’t be fair to those who are already earning that, especially the people who have the experience and education that got them to that point.
CSUF senior Ahmad Maki thinks that the increase would be fair. He said that the move would force companies to increase the wages across the board. If they do not increase all wages, then the existing hourly wage of $15 would start to attract applicants more suitable for entry level positions.
“As the richest nation on Earth, people who work full time should not have to live below the poverty line,” said Herlim Li, internship director for the American Federation of Teachers. “The way we treat the (less fortunate) speaks volumes about our society.”
The march was arranged by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents over 1.5 million public service workers such as security officers, janitors, window cleaners and other service-based jobs, according to their website.
The mid-morning rally drew over 5,000 participants and garnered media attention both locally and nationwide.
Related marches under the Fight for $15 movement were scheduled in at least 270 other cities including New York, Boston, Chicago and Denver.
The rally was intended to start a national conversation in light of the upcoming presidential election and the recently proposed 2016 California ballot initiative promoting higher wages and added sick time for low-wage workers.
Fox Business Channel opened Tuesday night’s GOP debates with presidential candidates fielding questions about minimum wage.
When asked if he would, as president, authorize an increase of the hourly rate for American workers, presidential front-runner Donald Trump said simply, “Wages (are) too high.”
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage in July stating, “It is a national disgrace that millions of full-time workers are living in poverty and millions more are forced to work two or three jobs just to pay their bills.”
However, not all who turned out to the rally supported the proposed national pay increase.
Some opponents of the measure said the wage increase will cause adverse economic conditions, such as monetary inflation and greater unemployment numbers.
Local LA artist Michael Javier Madrid, an advocate of immigration reform, does not agree that higher wages are the answer to national poverty. Madrid, who was at the rally, said some young people, as well as others in the immigrant community, would rather voice dissent than work harder to earn the higher wages they are seeking.
“Everyone has that same struggle,” Madrid said. “They would just fight against their job and not do the work.”
The protesters also gathered in front of the Central Community Police Station on East Sixth Street where Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists spoke about questionable policing in black communities and elaborated on where the African-American worker fits in the minimum wage debate.
“The majority of black people are black workers,” said Melina Abdullah, BLM organizer and professor of Pan-African Studies at Cal State LA, who took charge in front of the Los Angeles Police Department site with a message and a megaphone.
“The labor movement has been deeply involved with the BLM movement from the start because they recognized when Mike Brown was killed (by police) in Ferguson, (Missouri) his mother was a UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) worker.”
Supporters hope the proposed increase will get minimum wage to $15 by 2020.
“Our California economy comes to a stall when workers aren’t even able to pay their rent and their bills,” said Coral Itzcalli, a spokeswoman for the SEIU Local 721. “Our LA City workers just ratified a contract with the City of Los Angeles that includes raising the minimum wage to $15.”
Companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s have recently responded to the higher-wage crusade by implementing new campaigns that boast systematic pay increases for their employees.
In response to opponents, Li said, “I would rather pay an extra dollar more for my Big Mac and know the people behind the counter can take care of their family and are not working 80 hours a week.”