Detroit Citizens Protest for Fair Wages
On April 15, 2015, over 700 Detroit citizens gathered at Wayne State University as part of a nationwide movement to protest for a $15 per hour wage. Many of the protestors were low-income earners, such as fast food workers, who work in industries where the work is demanding and the pay is low.
Lately, protests to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour have been heating up. The Detroit protest is just the latest in a set of three protests that have occurred in the city in the past two years. Similar demonstrations calling for both a minimum wage raise and a union for fast food workers have occurred in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Several McDonald’s stores in New York have had to temporarily close operations due to the protests, although no protestors were arrested for any violent altercations.
Federal and Retail Responses to the Protests
Although unemployment has been declining in recent years, several of the jobs that have been added in industries such as retail and health care do not pay a living wage. President Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 however such a bill has been opposed by the Republicans in Congress.
While Congress has been unable to raise the federal minimum wage, some cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have responded to the call and have passed $15 minimum wage laws. Even some large companies have also responded to the workers’ demands. In April, Wal-Mart announced that it would increase its wage to $9 per hour and is set to raise it again to $10 per hour by next February. This wage increase will affect nearly 500,000 full and part-time workers. McDonalds has also announced that it would increase the wage from $9.01 per hour to $9.90. The company would then work to raise the wage again to over $10 per hour by the end of next year. This raise will affect 90,000 workers at franchised locations. The company additionally announced that it would sponsor college tuitions for workers at non-franchised locations.
Michigan State Legislature to Set Workers Back?
However, despite the national call for a $15 per hour minimum wage, the citizens of Detroit have their own local battles to fight. The Michigan State legislature is currently debating a bill that could allow employers to pay workers under 20 a rate that is below the state minimum wage. The current minimum wage in Michigan is $8.15. However if this bill goes into effect, employers could pay these workers the federal minimum wage, which is almost one dollar lower than the minimum wage in Michigan. The bill, which is still currently being debated, will need to pass in the Senate and the House before going to the governor’s office for a signature.
The debate about raising the federal minimum wage will certainly become a heated topic in the 2016 presidential election. So far the democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has yet to take a firm stance on this issue. However Richard Trumka, president of AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor union, has said that the 2016 have “no place to hide” when it comes to a stance on the minimum wage. A decisive stance on this issue could soon become extremely important in the upcoming race.