By: Veronica Turner, Executive Vice President
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
On Tuesday the City of Boston will become the global launching point for two days of massive protests that will unite tens of thousands of workers on six continents in a call for greater economic justice.
It’s fitting that Boston will kick off the demonstrations, one of the first cities where the Fight for $15 became a rallying cry across industries. On this day, thousands of workers across the Commonwealth from the home care, higher education, transportation, fast food, retail and other industries will come together in Boston to protest low wages, highlight legislative priorities and place a spotlight on bad employer practices.
These demonstrations are needed now more than ever. While workers earned major victories in 2014 with a hike in the minimum wage, earned sick time and a domestic workers bill of rights, much work remains to be done when it comes to combating growing wage inequality.
The challenge is particularly striking here at home. A recent study by the Brookings Institution found that Boston is the third most inequitable city in the nation, with the top 5 percent of households earning 15 times what the bottom 20 make.
The good news is that we can take action now to address the wage crisis that threatens our economy and tens of thousands of local individuals and families. Currently there are several bills filed with the state legislature that if passed, would lift wages for low wage workers in several key industries. This includes a homecare bill that would provide a living wage of $15 an hour to nearly 20,000 home care employees in Massachusetts working with private agencies – many who currently make little more than minimum wage.
There is also legislation that would require big box retail and fast food corporations with 200 or more employees in Massachusetts to pay their workers $15 an hour by 2018. Finally, a tipped wage bill would over time eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and phase in the same hourly minimum wage as workers in other industries in the Commonwealth.
On Tuesday, workers will highlight these bills and voice their support for the Fight for $15. They’ll also place a spotlight on the poverty wages that continue to plague some of the Commonwealth’s largest and most profitable industries, forcing families to make nearly impossible decisions – such as paying rent or buying groceries.
The demonstration kicks off with a rally at Forsyth Park, and then workers will march to Northeastern University to protest poverty wages for adjunct professors. Workers will continue to 31 St. James Ave. to support fair wages for janitors in Boston’s office buildings, and then to Medical Resources Homecare Agency to protest pervasive poverty in the homecare industry.
Workers will also make stops near Tufts Medical Center to urge executives to respect workers’ rights and prioritize services for low-income residents during merger negotiations with Boston Medical Center. At the Chinatown MBTA stop, workers will speak out against First Suffolk LLC, a property management group that displaced Chinatown residents during one of this winter’s worst blizzards.
Finally workers will arrive at McDonald’s to highlight poverty pay and unsafe working conditions, and at AMC Loews Boston Common Theater to place a spotlight on wage theft issues impacting workers.
For the first time students from campuses such as Harvard, Emerson, UMass, Northeastern, Boston University, Tufts, Emerson and Brandeis will also join in the protests.
The scale of what we will see on Tuesday and Wednesday is unlike anything we have experienced before when it comes to wage inequality. Demonstrations are expected in 300 cities in 40 different countries, from San Paolo to Tokyo.
And that’s a good thing. We can no longer afford to sit back while the wage inequality crisis takes its toll on more individuals here at home and around the nation and the globe.
And make no mistake, growing wage inequality is a crisis, one that threatens to set our economy back and harm the workers who provide critical services to our communities and make our businesses profitable.
The time for action is now. And on Tuesday, April 14th that begins here in Boston. Will you come join us on Tuesday to help low wage workers Fight for $15?