Thousands of low-wage airport and fast-food workers across US plan to protest on fourth anniversary of first major action in light of Trump’s election victory
Tens of thousands of low-wage workers will protest at 20 different airports including Chicago’s O’Hare international airport and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty on 29 November, according to organizers from the group Fight for 15.
In addition to the strike at airports, fast-food workers, home care and childcare workers also plan to protest as part of the Fight for $15 movement calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union rights.
Terrence Wise, a McDonald’s worker from Kansas City, Missouri, said Donald Trump’s election had reaffirmed the group’s determination to push for change. “We reject sexism and racism and we will not allow our friends and family members to be deported,” Wise said. “This will not happen.”
“On November 29 we will wage our most disruptive strike and protest ever,” Wise said.
But organizing director Kendall Fells said the group’s message was not specifically directed at President-elect Trump. “Republicans in Congress, the GOP state legislatures, McDonald’s, airlines, they’re who our message is directed to. It’s not for any one particular person.”
Fells said there wasn’t much clarity as to what Trump thought about workers’ rights from his policy statements. “I think it’s hard to say. He’s been all over the place. At one point he said wages were too high in this country; we showed up at the debate and he said $10.”
The protest is timed to the fourth anniversary of the first major Fight for 15 action, when fast-food workers walked off the job in 2012.
“America does not feel fair anymore,” said Oliwia Pac, who works at O’Hare, citing “long hours of difficult and both physically and mentally demanding labor”.
“The payment we receive is nowhere near the amount of blood, sweat and tears we expend at O’Hare,” she said. “I’ve stood out on jet-bridges in negative 30-degree weather with only a thin flannel to keep me warm. I’ve been told to push two wheelchairs at once. I get cuts and bruises all the time.”
LiAnne Flakes, a childcare worker in Tampa, Florida, said she, too, would risk arrest by protesting about her low paycheck. “I teach and care for 80 to 100 in my classroom and worry about what the future holds for them,” she said. “I’m only paid $12.50 an hour and only [that much] because I work a government job.” State minimum wage in Florida is $8.05 an hour. “This means I cannot afford healthy food, I’m constantly moving whenever my rent goes up, and I have never owned a vehicle.”
Flakes said she was undaunted by the way working people had been characterized during the presidential campaign. “No matter what language has been used to talk about working families like mine over the last few months, the Fight for $15 has changed things for working people in this country,” she said.
Another worker, Marvette Hodge, said her wages were not sufficient to keep her and her daughter housed. “With only being paid $9 an hour, I constantly am worried about keeping a roof over my and my daughter’s head,” she said. “In 2009 I was homeless for a couple of years.”