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LA’s Working Poor Struggle for a Dignified Life

Gregory Lewis  |  Issue: August | September 2015
60,000 workers in over 120 cities rallied,

In April more than 60,000 workers in over 120 cities rallied, protested or struck in biggest national rally of action to raise the minimum wage.
PHOTOS: nationofchange.org, fightfor15.org, tu.org and foxvalley/nhlabornews.com


Los Angeles, CA—On July 21, 2015 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to increase the minimum wage to $15. L.A. is the largest city in the United States to have a law to raise the minimum wage to $15.00. The raise will start at $10.25 in July 2016 with annual increases to $12.00, $13.25, $14.25 and $15.00 by 2020. The City Council is now considering three paid sick days for all workers across Los Angeles.

22 percent of Los Angeles residents live in poverty while also having the most unaffordable rent in the nation. Los Angeles residents pay 47 percent of their income to rent. However, a living wage in Los Angeles right now should be $21. The increase will not remedy the fact that most workers across Los Angeles are part-time and contingent workers with little or no job security. This is what gave birth to the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

The struggle for a dignified life will continue, strengthened by experience of forming alliances beyond industries and unions. This struggle is beginning to unite scattered economic struggles into a political force aimed at the local governments often run by Democrats.

In Los Angeles, traditional unions, worker centers and other non-union worker organizations, non-profit research and advocacy groups, faith organizations, immigrant and civil rights groups and dozens of other allies formed the Raise the Wage coalition. Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice – LA, UNITE HERE, Local 11 and SEIU, Korean Immigrant Worker Alliance, Black Workers Center, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy along with many other groups make up the coalition.

This victory is a nodal point in the organizing that began by fast food workers and WalMart workers as workers unite to include formerly excluded workers like day laborers, street vendors and even adjunct university faculty.  LA history after all includes the Justice for Janitors campaign in 1990 where 400 striking janitors, primarily Central American immigrants, members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 399, demonstrated peacefully in an effort to improve the living standards for their families by unionizing their employer, International Service System (ISS), the contractor responsible for servicing most of L.A.’s office buildings at the time.

Women Fasting for 15 days and voicing slogans like “We Work, We Sweat, put $15 on our Check,” were some of the tactics that forced the City to held several hearings across Los Angeles to hear testimony of residents and business owners as to why the City did or did not need a wage increase. The coalition is growing and gaining momentum as just yesterday the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to raise the minimum wage across the county of Los Angeles to $15.00.

The wage increase does not remedy the increasing technological advances which are replacing human labor. Rather, it attempts to minimize and delay the effects of this process. The benefits of the increase will lessen as more jobs disappear from the market The wage increase will help families across Los Angeles, but we must look toward solving system problems of inequality as we march forward. Si Se Puede!!

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