Striking Allina Health nurses joined advocates for a $15 minimum wage Monday in a march through north Minneapolis that highlighted the connections among the many businesses that profit off of poverty – and the need for elected officials to take action.
The march, led by fast food workers organizing with CTUL, a Minneapolis worker center, started at Wendy’s in north Minneapolis and proceeded down West Broadway with stops at Ace Payday Lending, Burger King, McDonald’s, and US Bank.
“We know since this country’s inception, the wealth that has been built in this country has been built off of black and brown bodies,” said Rod Adams, economic justice organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “We are here to take a stand against poverty and the big businesses that keep people in poverty, and to demand the city council pass an ordinance for a $15 minimum wage now.”
Though the Minnesota Supreme Court sided with the Minneapolis City Council last month and blocked a $15 minimum wage charter amendment from the ballot, low-wage workers have vowed to run one of the largest grassroots campaigns in city history to win a $15 minimum wage. Monday’s march launched the next phase of the campaign: demanding the City Council pass a $15 minimum wage ordinance now.
Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association who are on strike against Allina Health said their effort to maintain their wages and benefits is related to the struggle to raise pay for the more than 100,000 Minneapolis workers – many of them women and people of color – who would benefit from an increase.
"We’re here supporting $15 an hour because this is about our community,” said Katie Quarles, a member of the MNA board of directors who is on strike at United Hospital in St. Paul.
“Poverty is a leading cause of sickness, of not having proper access to food and healthcare. It’s these same businesses that lobbied the Minneapolis City Council to keep $15 off the ballot that are trying to break our union and push for-profit healthcare.”
Three of the stops – Wendys, Burger King and McDonald’s – highlighted the low pay that workers receive in the retail sector.
“I’ve worked for Burger King for five years and am only making $9.75 an hour,” said Lexi Collins, a CTUL member and fast food employee in north Minneapolis. “On top of that, we don’t get paid for all of the hours that we work.”
Outside Ace Payday Lending, people who had gotten stuck in the debt trap told their stories about how payday lending preys off of poverty wages.
"People that don't make a living wage can't afford an emergency,” said the Rev. Paul Slack, president of ISAIAH, a faith organization that backs the $15 minimum wage ordinance.
“Payday lenders trap you in a cycle of predatory debt. They get rich off the backs of the poor. It's time to end poverty wages and the predatory lending that's bleeding our communities dry.”
Workers vowed to keep fighting until the City Council passes an ordinance for a $15 minimum wage.