Natali Rivers, Uptown:
… The timing is significant. August 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. African Americans disproportionately work in fast food jobs in this country. The movement felt that the strike would mirror the $2 wage demands of the organizers in 1963. Adjusted for inflation, that demand would be $15.26 today.
Fast food is a $200 billion per year industry, yet most employed within the industry earn minimum wage or just above it. According to the New York Times, the nationwide median wage for fast food workers is $9.05. The industry leaders argue that these entry level jobs are a stepping stone to better opportunities, but according to a report from the National Employment Law Project, only 2.2 percent of all jobs in the entire industry are managerial.
“We are united in our belief that every job should pay workers enough to meet basic needs such as food and housing,” said Nancy Salgado, a single mother of two who has worked at McDonald’s in Chicago for 10 years and makes Illinois’ minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. “Our families, communities, and economy all depend on workers earning a living wage.”…
… Those who seek to conservatize the March on Washington in modern memory either gloss over or neglect altogether its consistent emphasis on economic as well as social egalitarianism. A. Philip Randolph, the union leader and lifelong democratic socialist who conceived of and chaired the march, made this clear in the speech with which he began the rally. “Yes, we want all public accommodations open to all citizens,” he said, “but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them. Yes, we want a Fair Employment Practice Act [banning racial discrimination in hiring], but what good will it do if profit-geared automation destroys the jobs of millions of workers, black and white?”…
Of the more than 200,000 Americans who came to the Mall 50 years ago, tens of thousands were active in organizations that espoused and embodied an indissoluble link between civil and economic rights. That link was embraced by more than black churches and the NAACP. The United Auto Workers, garment and textile workers, the Packinghouse Workers and the still-fledgling teacher and public worker unions brought their members to Washington on hundreds of chartered buses and trains. They heard speeches not only declaring that Southern blacks should have the right to vote and to sit at the front of the bus but also calling for public employment programs to shrink unemployment and a hike in the minimum wage to reduce the incidence of poverty-level work….