Phoenix protesters join nationwide demand for $15 hourly minimum wage

Protesters gathered Tuesday to join the fight for $15 and hoping to call attention to the minimum wage prior to next year’s national election (Photo by Erica Lang/Cronkite News)

Protesters gathered outside a McDonald’s in downtown Phoenix at dawn Tuesday to “fight for fifteen,” a national movement calling for an increase of the hourly minimum wage from $8.05 to $15.

“We want to get a career also but it’s hard. It’s hard how we get paid now, it just isn’t enough,” said Gasmin Gallardo, who has worked at McDonald’s for the past seven years. She was one of several workers who was on strike Tuesday morning.

The national protest, took place at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC and other fast food restaurants to draw attention to 64 million workers who earn less than $15 an hour. Fight for $15 organizers also want union rights for service workers.

“Phoenix is going to be next for $15 and union rights for fast food workers,” said Gilbert Romero, protest organizer. “Today is the day for national action. A couple workers at this McDonald’s are going on strike. We are organizing and getting the word out.”

The nationwide protest is timed a year in advance of the 2016 presidential election and demonstrators want candidates to take a stand.

“We are setting the agenda for next November,” Romero said. “We need all the candidates who are running to know the voters, the tens of millions who make less than $15, that voting block is going to have a strong influence on the presidential election.”

“We’re just going to keep working and organizing workers, getting the word out and getting support from the community and getting support from elected officials,” Romero said. “We’ve already made progress but Phoenix is next.”

For Evelia Carrera, the fight for $15 is personal.

“I want them [politicians] to hear that we are fighting for the future of our children,” Carrera said. “We don’t want our kids to also work in fast food restaurants for minimum wage.”

“We are united in this fight and need their support not only for an increase in minimum wage, but for a better life,” Carrera said. “I pay rent, electricity and phone and I do not make enough money.”

Fight for $15 planned protests outside fast food restaurants in 270 cities, the largest nationwide demonstration since the movement began three years ago.

The organization chose to hold protests in key election states, Ohio and Florida; They also demonstrated in New York where workers have been successful in achieving a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Nearly three-quarters of the economists who responded to a survey earlier this month opposed a raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

In the poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center for the Employment Policies Institute, economists said a higher minimum wage would hurt both youth and adult employment and reduce the number of service jobs.

Laura Perez, 14, plans to start working at a fast food restaurant to help her mother, who is currently an employee at Del Taco.

“I can’t let my mom suffer herself,” Perez said. “We have to work harder for what we have and we don’t have many privileges that other people do.”

“I know there are a lot of people out there like us, my family is just one of them,” Perez said.

Perez and other high school students helped make signs demanding a higher wages for fast workers . One sign read “I’m not loving it.”