Hundreds Arrested at Multiple Minimum Wage Protests

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On Tuesday many big cities saw thousands of low-wage workers taking to the streets, protesting in favor of a $15 minimum wage. Union activists, politicians, and church members joined the nationwide demonstrations and almost 200 people were arrested across the U.S.

Workers joined the cause in airports, travel hubs, and highways by walking off their jobs or blocking traffic. About 500 employees at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago took part in a strike, alleging unfair labor practices. Hundreds of people chanted slogans outside of the terminals while police officers had to put up gates to make room for travelers to walk past. “We’re not asking for special treatment, we’re asking for decent treatment. We’re asking for decent wages,” said Kisha Rivera, an airplane cabin cleaner at O’Hare.

Thousands of people planned to walk out from their jobs at different McDonald’s restaurants, according to organizers, and one of the chain’s restaurants in St Louis had its drive-through blocked by people for half an hour. A state senator in Massachusetts who sat down with protesters in the middle of a street in Cambridge was arrested. In North Carolina a reverend was arrested, and in Manhattan four local and state officials were arrested as well, after 200 protesters blocked traffic in the Financial District. By Wednesday morning, arrests were up to 26 in New York City, 36 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 39 in Detroit, and 40 in Los Angeles.

Whether or not to raise the minimum wage is always a hot political topic. Liberal think tank Economic Policy Institute says that raising the minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $12 per hour would affect 35 million workers across the nation and help them get off government assistant programs. But conservative organization Employment Policies Institute argues that the raised costs of a higher minimum wage would result in fewer jobs and the closure of businesses.

President-elect Donald Trump has not been very clear on his stance on the minimum wage. At a Fox Business debate last year he said that wages are too high, but later denied having said that, and claimed he only meant that there’s no need to raise the minimum wage. And then this summer he said at a press conference that the federal “minimum wage has to go up” to at least $10, but only a few months earlier he said it should be up to each state to decide. At this point it’s unclear if he’s made up his mind on minimum wage policy.

The main organizer behind the nationwide protests was the Fight for $15 movement, which is supported by many labor unions. Organizers said that they wanted to draw attention to more areas than just traditional low-wage jobs like fast-food restaurants, by focusing on all kinds of working class Americans. The tactic of protesting at places like airports rather than outside of restaurants, and trying to appeal to people in other fields, seemed to be successful. Workers from childcare facilities, individuals who work in healthcare, and even Uber drivers joined the cause. The question is whether Trump (and other politicians) will listen.

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at EVonZeipel@LawStreetMedia.com.



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