Last Thursday, hundreds gathered in Boston — including a SEA/SEIU Local 1984 contingent — to demand a living wage for all Americans.
The rally was organized as part of the Fight for $15, which aims to secure all workers a $15 an hour wage and the right to join a union. Marchers gathered in Boston Common before heading to the State House for the rally, then marching through downtown. The group came from varied backgrounds, but all were there for the same reason.
“Health care, child care, fast food and retail workers, all together for the dignity of a living wage,” said Cindy Perkins, an SEA/SEIU Local 1984 director and chair of the union’s Fight for $15 committee. “I imagine this is how the labor movement began. What an inspiring crowd!”
SEA/SEIU Local 1984 has long been supportive of raising the minimum wage, and members got behind the Fight for $15, even starting a New Hampshire contingent. The union members heading down to Boston were joined by participants from several community organizations. Chapter 45 member Maria Thyng was among those who took part in the rally from SEA/SEIU Local 1984.
“I thought it was amazing to see that many people turn out for economic justice,” she said.
In a region with a high cost of living, it can be difficult to navigate on $10 an hour, let alone the minimum wage, she said.
“Nobody can survive on that,” she said. “You can’t rent an apartment, buy food and pay all your expenses on that. It’s even hard on $15 when you add it up.”
She said the narrative around raising wages is that doing so will hurt the rest of us, because prices would go up, but she challenged that premise.
“If you have less corporate greed, then it becomes more doable to pay somebody a living wage,” she said.
Germano Martins, an SEA/SEIU Local 1984 director, joined the group in Boston and brought his son, Armando, along. Armando Martins said this was his first time taking part in a march such as this.
“I went down to the Fight for $15 rally and march in Boston to show solidarity with those who work 40, sometimes even more, hours a week and are still struggling to pay for basic necessities,” Armando Martins said.
“It was a beautiful experience to see people working to strengthen their communities,” he said. “Everyone there understood that our economy and society cannot properly function when even a single worker is earning starvation wages. Many different organizations came to the demonstration; healthcare workers, state employees, fast-food workers, people against union-busting, people seeking justice for Jeffery Pendleton, public school teachers and more. People came from all over Massachusetts and even surrounding states. There were signs in English, Spanish and Southeastern Asian languages. There were chants in English, Spanish and Creole. People who had not planned on going to the rally, but believed in the cause, joined when they saw us marching.
Germano Martins encouraged his fellow union members — in fact, all workers — to take part in a Fight for $15 demonstration.
“Participating in a peaceful demonstration is, in my opinion, the second most important exercise of our Democratic values next to voting,” he said. “Let me assure you not every country affords this right to their citizens. The Fight for $15 is a fair fight when workers across this nation are standing up for paycheck fairness.”
“I am sure everyone of you by now knows someone who is underpaid, and who works for enterprises where all the money goes to the very top,” Martins said. “Contrary to the anti-worker Right To Work rhetoric, there’s really nothing American about it. This is not who we are. We are no longer a colony. Workers should be paid a living wage. No one person who works 40 hours per week in the United States should live in poverty.”