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Coalition to Raise Minimum Wage, 15 Now, Expands Philly Chapter

September 4, 2014 Category: Uncategorized

The local chapter of 15 Now, a national coalition advocating for a $15 per hour minimum wage, has made some notable gains since it first came to Philadelphia in February.

The volunteer-run advocacy group launched a crowdfunding campaign and organized three “Neighborhood Action Groups” in North, West and South Philadelphia. It has also organized and co-organized protests, such as the one that happened today along Broad Street.

15 Now Philly organizers joined local union members and fast food restaurant employees in a march from the McDonald’s at Girard Avenue and Broad Street south to the McDonald’s at Arch Street and Broad. The march was a part of a nationwide series of protests and strikes that are expected to hit about 150 cities, MSNBC reported.

Calling for Wage Hikes, Unionization

Protesters circled the McDonald’s several times today before heading down Broad Street around 11:00 a.m. Some of the them held signs up in front of the drive-through window and tried to encourage employees still working to come out and join the march.

“We can’t survive on $7.25,” chanted the crowd, referring to Pennsylvania’s current minimum wage. Pennsylvania is one of 19 states with minimum wage rates that are the same as the minimum federal rate.

McDonald’s released a statement via email today responding to the protests:

“McDonald’s and our independent franchisees support paying our valued employees fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace. We believe that any minimum wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners of small and medium-sized businesses – like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants – is manageable.”

But current wages, according to 15 Now Philly, are simply too low to be justified.

“We feel that asking for 15 dollars and hour is not unreasonable,” said Denise Jones, an organizer for 15 Now Philly for the last two months.

A large portion of protesters came from local unions, including SEIU, CWA, Local 274 and others, who called for the unionization of major fast food restaurants.

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“Working with the public and doing what they, it ain’t easy,” said Lenny Hicks, a member of Local 274 and a food service employee for LaSalle University.

The march ended around 12:30 pm, after 11 protesters were arrested for refusing to move from the center of Arch Street. Those arrested, including 15 Now Philly lead organizer Kate Goodman, will receive summary citations for obstructing the highway, according to Police Captain Stephen Glenn.

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Organizing and funding

15 Now Philly has built its membership by establishing Neighborhood Action Groups in different parts of the city. These groups hold monthly meetings and provide volunteer opportunities to phone bank and canvass.

The first group was established in West Philadelphia in June. Goodman said this group is the most developed and has the support of Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. The North Philadelphia group formed in July, and the South Philadelphia group formed last week.

Goodman said the people joining these groups are generally “African-American people between the ages of 20 and 40 and a lot of young moms.”

“[Working moms] have been the ones who are most passionate because low wages impact them and their families,” she added.

15 Now Philly also finished up a crowdfunding campaign in July to help fund operations on the ground in Philadelphia. Some of the money — out of a total of $1055 — will go to the Seattle chapter, which is currently in debt.

This is seemingly the price of success: Seattle recently struck a deal to raise the local minimum wage incrementally to $15 per hour.

15 Now is also currently organizing groups in Allentown, Lancaster and Pittsburgh.

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