Some 600 Sacramento residents added their voices to a national chorus asking for a $15-an-hour minimum wage Tuesday by participating in a midday rally from City Hall to the state Capitol.
The union-backed rally came less than two weeks after the Sacramento City Council approved a series of gradual wage increases that will bring the minimum wage to $12.50 in 2020.
In addition to backing a national $15-an-hour minimum wage, local activists are pushing a city ballot measure that would eventually raise the wage to $15 an hour by 2020. The proposal would also require employers to provide one paid sick day to workers for every 30 hours those employees work.
“This isn’t just happening in Sacramento; it’s happening across the country,” said Fabrizio Sasso, executive director of the Sacramento Central Labor Council. “People will keep fighting until they get a living wage.”
Business groups have opposed raising the minimum, arguing that it would hurt hiring and the overall business climate.
The rally aimed to pull together fast food, home care, child care and other underpaid workers in demanding a national minimum wage of $15 per hour. Tens of thousands of workers across the country were expected to take part in demonstrations from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.
The event was billed as a walkout, but it’s unclear how many people left low-wage fast-food jobs to take part. Most of the Sacramento event appeared to be more seasoned (and unionized) workers.
The Sacramento-area day of protest began with an early morning rally outside a McDonald’s in Elk Grove. The group that pulled together several labor groups formed outside Sacramento’s City Hall shortly before noon.
“Hold the burger, hold the fries, make our wages supersized,” the group chanted as it moved through the streets of Sacramento.
The Oct. 28 Sacramento City Council vote was an attempt at a compromise, but the powerful Sacramento Central Labor Council was among the groups not satisfied. The debate produced testy meetings with the police removing one protester from the chamber.
Tuesday, however, the protest was peaceful. Union officials and black-clad protesters teamed up with Sacramento bicycle officers to escort the crowd along the route – blocking traffic to keep the group together.
Armed with megaphones, they looped toward the city’s arena construction project before heading to the Capitol.
“We deserve to have a living wage,” said Amy Day, who represents the El Dorado County arm of the United Domestic Workers. “We are not second-class citizens.”
She said people working in home supportive services jobs in the county are woefully underpaid at $9 an hour. She said more of those workers would have attended but it would be inappropriate to walk away from the people for whom they’re providing care.
Sasso said workers need to stand up up for their rights – including their right to organize or voice concerns about workplace conditions.
Former Wal-Mart employee Tyfani Faulkner, who spoke at the rally, said improving wages will help the overall economy.
“If you raise the floor, you raise the ceiling,” Faulkner said.