‘Fight for $15’ highlights: NY, Pittsburgh raise wages, Sanders rallies for workers

© Lucas Jackson
The nationwide Fight for $15 strike is still pressing for minimum wage hikes for fast food workers, but the movement has already prompted some legislative changes. City and state employees in New York and Pittsburgh will see their minimum wages rise to $15.

The one-day strike on Tuesday saw rallies in 270 cities – the largest demonstration to date, according to organizers at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The movement, now in its third year, has pressed political leaders into action, as cities and states are introducing legislation that seeks to move workers’ wages closer to $15 an hour.

So far, Seattle, Washington and the California cities Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland have approved phased-in increases that eventually will take their minimum wage to $15 an hour, or about $31,200 a year.

California

In California, Berkeley city council is preparing to debate and vote on increasing its minimum hourly payment to $19. If approved, it would become the highest minimum wage raise in the country.

Currently, city workers receive $11 an hour, and this is scheduled to climb to $12.53 in 2016. The vote would concern raising the minimum wage to $13 per hour by 2016, with $1.50 increases until it reaches $19 by 2020, according to CNN Money.

Median home prices in Berkeley are $971,100 and median rent is $3,600.

New York State

There were rallies and marches at fast food outlets all over New York City, with local lawmakers joining in to show their support.

At a later afternoon rally, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state is raising the minimum wage for about 10,000 workers to $15 an hour over the next six years.

Initially, the move will benefit 1,000 office assistants, custodial workers and lifeguards in New York City, whose hourly wage will reach $15 by the end of 2018. The state’s basic minimum wage is currently $8.75 and is set to rise to $9 by the end of the year.

“I believe that if you work hard and work full time, you should not be condemned to live in poverty,” the governor said, adding that “families nationwide continue to be left behind by an insufficient minimum wage. And it’s time that changed.”

Another 9,000 employees upstate will see wages rise to that level three years later, in 2021. The Democratic governor has called for a $15 basic minimum wage, which state Senate Republicans oppose.

A state wage board recently agreed to increase the minimum payment for fast food chain workers, in annual increments, to $15 per hour by the end of 2018 in New York City and for other cities by July 1, 2021.

Bernie rallies in the rain

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders joined protesters in Washington, D.C., speaking in front of the US Capitol building.

"Thank you all for coming out and standing up for justice, standing up for dignity, and for saying loudly and clearly that people in this country that work 40 hours a week deserve a living wage," he said, addressing a crowd in the rain while holding an umbrella.

Absent was a tweet or statement from the other leading democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, or any Republican frontrunners.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

In Pittsburgh, Mayor Bill Peduto issued an executive order raising all city employees’ minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2021.

Peduto has also called for the City Council to draft legislation next year requiring city contractors to eventually pay their workers $15 hourly or face city-imposed penalties.

At a rally at city hall, participants could be heard shouting: “Casino workers, restaurant workers, hospital workers, janitors, security guards. If you are here today and are fighting for $15 and a union, make some noise!”

KO in Detroit

In Motor City, which took a brutal beating after declaring bankruptcy, a papier-mâché Joe Louis knocked out Ronald McDonald with his fists in downtown Detroit's fast food protest.

There were also rallies throughout the US in cities such as Las Vegas, St. Louis and Boston.