The Fight for $15 and Occupy — Waves in a Continuing Struggle
On April 15, 2015, fast-food workers held rallies in 236 U.S. cities in their biggest protest yet for higher pay and union rights. In addition, tens of thousands of people from 40 countries across the globe came together for fair wages and the right to organize and as a part of the Fight for $15.
The Fight for $15 arose on the heels of Occupy Wall Street that began on September 17, 2011. The uprising of Occupy Wall Street is part of a significant movement in U.S. history. A reaction to continued economic crisis, it was one wave among many generated as a reaction to continued economic crisis that has many forms. Employers’ demands for concessions from many workers and unions in the 80’s and then the 90’s organizing effort of low-wage workers, particularly janitors with massive demonstrations, led to literally tens of thousands of workers joining unions.
A massive recession began around 2001 and had an impact on the working class and especially low-wage workers. This lead to massive demonstrations over immigrant rights that were not only about “documents” but about earning decent wages and having rights on the job, schools and in communities. As we all know, the great depression of December 2007 only worsened in 2008 and spread around the world. Home foreclosures and job loss exploded while opportunity and hope disappeared in a visible way across the country.
One can see the wave after wave of shocks caused by an increasingly worsening economic crisis which calls forth both opposition and various individuals and organizations who attempt to represent this objective burgeoning movement. We are the 99%. Profound. Simultaneously there are many attempts to raise the minimum wage in states, counties and cities, some successful and some not successful.
A demand to raise the minimum wage was voiced and could not be contained. In Illinois, the minimum wage raise began in 2006 and increased over the following 2 years. Around the same time in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Maryland, legislatures introduced bills to increase their state minimum wages. This movement went on to influence the 2008 elections of “Hope and Change.”
Fight for $15 has congealed a vast movement in this country for low-wage workers and has given some life to other workers not in “low wage” sectors. It has generated a movement of workers and has both created in them an awareness and has more broadly renewed a class awareness not seen in the U.S. in some time. Its demands include not only a fair wage but many more questions over health care, jobs, housing and education — what should be a standard of living for the U.S. and the world.
The organizations behind the leadership and direction of the Fight for $15 unfortunately have their own separate goals. One of those is to control this massive objective spontaneous movement within corporate needs of this particular stage of the crisis of capitalism in spite of the many well intentioned forces around this movement. Some of the leaders would prefer to impel the movement into the arms of the Democratic Party with its limited goals and limited desire for transformational change.
In the face of dramatic changes in technology, and therefore the economy, the capitalists’ representatives direct their political solutions (use of the state) with the goal of maintaining corporate control. This is moving our country toward a worsening political crisis. The 99% needs strategy, vision and organization to distribute ideas class-wide. These are essential tools in fighting for control of the direction of our country and a new stability in a new economic system that can meet our needs today.