Low Wage Workers Rally for $15 Minimum Wage, Higher than State Legislature’s Proposal
BOSTON - Following the agreement reached in the Massachusetts House and Senate on Wednesday to raise the state’s minimum wage gradually to $11 an hour, union advocates continued calls for a minimum higher than that proposed by legislators.
Hundreds of low wage workers and their supporters held a rally in Copley Square on Thursday in conjunction with rallies in Worcester and Springfield, Mass. advocating for a $15 minimum wage.
According to event organizers, the demonstrations brought workers from a number of low wage industries, including taxi drivers, adjunct professors, home care workers, and fast food workers, to raise awareness of what they say is a crisis of low wage work in the US.
A number of low wage workers spoke publicly at the rally about the difficulty of making ends meet when earning the current minimum wage in Massachusetts of $8 an hour.
According to Darius Cephas, an employee at McDonald’s, “It’s tough out here for a worker nowadays; making $8 an hour is not good enough for nobody.”
He said, unless people fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage, low wage employers are “just going to keep making a profit, and they’ll keep using us, and they’ll keep building their company off our sweat, off our tears, off our blood, all our future children’s blood.”
Felix Arroyo, Chief of Health and Human Services for the City of Boston, spoke at the rally, saying, “The greatest privilege is working for a mayor who comes right from where you’re from, a man who respects the working man and woman, who [has] himself had to get his hands dirty to make a living, and what this is really about, for us, it’s about eliminating the [phrase] ‘the working poor.’
“If you work, you shouldn’t be poor, if you work, you should be able to provide for your family, you should be able to provide housing for your family, feed your family, cloth your family, maybe, God forbid, spend time with your family, that’s what this is about, it’s about justice,” he continued, adding that the mayor’s office “will stand with you every step of the way.”
According to Maureen Sullivan, an adjunct professor at Boston University, “I’m here today, because even though I hold a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degree, and a PhD, the highest degree that one can earn in a field of knowledge, I cannot earn a living wage in my chosen profession, I’m among some of the lowest paid workers in America, and in the Commonwealth today.
“Being a college professor was once a middle class profession, but now I am a member of a growing teaching workforce at colleges and universities throughout the country that is called ‘contingent,’ which means that we, the teachers, are disposable and expendable,” she continued, “we have no job security, and we are grossly underpaid, we bounce from one semester to the next never knowing what course we will teach or where.”
According to Pierre Duchemin, a taxi driver, “The taxi industry is the equivalent of modern day sharecropping, I have to pay the fleet owners to drive the taxi, it seems everyone else is making off my work as a taxi driver, except me, sometimes after the end of a long day … like so many other workers today taxi drivers are organizing for a better wage, a voice on the job, and to be free of the corruption and exploitation that plague the industry.”
The rally continued with a march to the locations of a number of companies to demonstrate against the low wages paid to staff by the employers.
At present the proposal agreed upon in the House and Senate does not index the minimum wage to inflation, however, advocates are still pushing for the minimum wage to be indexed and raised to $15 an hour before the bill becomes law.