Portland Rally

New Poll: 63% Support a $15 Federal Minimum Wage!


“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass, 1857

In the wake of Seattle and San Francisco passing minimum wage ordinances for $15 in 2014, and successful minimum wage ballot initiatives last November, a new poll conducted by Hart Research Associates shows 63% of respondents support raising the federal minimum wage to $15. The Hart poll shows that, in two short years, strike action and protest by low-wage workers, combined with major victories has dramatically changed public opinion.  Low-wage workers have pushed public opinion past President Obama’s 2014 proposal for $10.10, and have set the national target of $15 minimum wage in 2015.

Other highlights from the poll:

  • 75% support $12.50 by 2020
  • 71% support elimination of the tip penalty (which disproportionately affects women)
  • 82% support indexing wage to inflation

If implemented, these changes would have a dramatic effect on the lives of low-wage workers nationwide, raising millions out of poverty.

Opposition doomsday arguments are crumbling as well. A recent University of Massachusetts study concluded that fast-food giants like McDonalds could raise wages to $15 without shedding jobs, which flies in the face of the National Restaurant Association claims that,“$15 would clearly jeopardize opportunities for existing and prospective employees.” (Aljazeera 1/23)

Thousands of fast-food workers have taken to the streets over the past two years demanding $15 and a union, and home healthcare, retail, and airport workers across the country have now joined in the fight for $15/hour. Now is the time to get involved to win $15 in all 50 states!

Get involved with 15 Now today, Donate, Join the struggle for $15 in all 50!



Let’s make 2015 the year of $15

The confidence of workers is growing nationwide. With bold leadership, 2015 could be the year of $15/hour, the year when low-wage workers begin to turn the tide against corporate greed and widening wealth inequality.

But to turn our momentum into a mass movement, it’s going to take everyone pitching in, with both time and financial support. Can you donate $15 today to win $15 in 2015?

It was just one year ago, in January 2014, that 15 Now held its founding meeting in Seattle. Six months later Seattle became the first major city to pass a $15/hour minimum wage, with 15 Now widely recognized as the leading force behind the victory.

Seattle transformed the national debate over the minimum wage. From a radical slogan of fast food strikers, suddenly the demand for $15 became a mainstream idea.

San Francisco moved rapidly and passed an even stronger $15/hour minimum wage in November. Nearly half of Chicago’s 50-strong City Council joined the call for $15, prompting “Mayor 1%” Rham Emanuel to pass $13/hour, cutting across a movement for more. In Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, Philadelphia, and other major cities, debates are raging over major hikes to the minimum wage.

15 Now is active in over 20 cities across the country and, with your financial help, we are well positioned to score fresh victories.

* In Oregon, $15 Now’s campaign for a statewide $15/hour minimum wage has won the support of 50 labor and community organizations, and 11 state legislators have co-sponsored a bill. 15 Now Portland, alongside Jobs with Justice, is leading a campaign for $15 for city contract workers that appears set to win a majority on the city council.

*  Workers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) Airport formed a 15 Now chapter and gathered over 2,000 signatures from their co-workers for a petition demanding $15. When Delta fired a leading 15 Now organizer, over 200 workers and supporters shut down the road into MSP. With growing media attention and political support, the movement for “$15 and a Union” at MSP is stronger than ever.

* In Philadelphia, following months of demonstrations and growing media attention, 15 Now convinced the city council to hold a formal hearing this February to raise the city minimum wage to $15/hour. 15 Now plans to mobilize hundreds of workers, and is preparing by organizing a Low Wage Workers Summit in collaboration with SEIU’s fast food campaign.

* In Boston’s 10th Suffolk District, 15 Now put a resolution on the November 2014 ballot for $15/hour minimum wage, which won 63% of the vote.

These are just a few of the most exciting developments. Much more is planned. The main thing holding us back is our limited resources. We rely on small-scale donations and monthly sustainers to keep 15 Now moving forward.

Please do your part. Become a monthly sustainer of 15 Now or donate what you can today.

Thanks and solidarity,

Ty Moore
National Organizer for 15 Now


walmart (1)

Uniting Fight for $15 with Ferguson Fury

Ty Moore, 15 Now Organizing Director

For the tens of thousands demanding justice for Mike Brown and Eric Garner, the connection between economic injustice and state violence couldn’t be clearer. Just a few miles from where police murdered Eric Garner, a low-income black man selling loosey cigarettes to scrape out a living, the white collar criminals on Wall Street remain free to continue their corrupt, illegal financial schemes.

The new movement against police racism, born in Ferguson following the police murder of Mike Brown, has flowered into the most significant popular revolt since Occupy Wall Street. Tens of thousands are searching for a way to take the momentum forward. A potential strategy emerged when the week of action for “$15 and a Union” coincided with the national surge of protests against the lack of indictments for the police who killed Mike Brown and Eric Garner.

Protests and Strikes in 200 Cities

It was only two years ago, in December 2012, when the slogan “$15 and a union” debuted with the first fast food strike in New York City, organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The slogan was greeted with enthusiasm by workers and young people radicalized by Occupy Wall Street’s critique of inequality and corporate corruption.

Politicians and mainstream media ridiculed the idea of raising up minimum wage workers to $15/hr as completely unrealistic. Even SEIU at first limited the slogan to fast food, rather than bringing $15/hr firmly into the national debate on the minimum wage.

How much has changed. With the victories for $15/hr in Seattle and then San Francisco, combined with escalating strikes and actions by low-wage workers, $15 has gone mainstream. Much like the 8-hour day galvanized labor in a previous era of robber barons, so too has $15/hour emerged as a rallying cry for today’s vast, multi-racial army of low-wage workers.

Mostly organized by SEIU, alongside OUR Wal-Mart and numerous local coalition partners, workers came onto the streets in nearly 200 cities during the national week of action between Black Friday and and December 4th. At Wal-Marts, McDonalds, airports, and government buildings, these were the biggest actions yet for “$15 and a union.”

Most of the strikes drew only small numbers of workers to join rallies with community supporters. Yet the potential for this developing into a mass campaign was never clearer, especially where youthful #BlackLivesMatter protests merged together with low-wage worker strikes.

Connecting to #BlackLivesMatter

Across the country, the youthful protests against police racism openly expressed their solidarity with the fight for $15. The widespread mood to #ShutItDown, most reflected in highway takeovers, found even sharper expression in marches through Wal-Marts and shopping malls, where chants and speeches often made the connections between economic inequality and police racism.

Photo: Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

There is widespread understanding that racism is structurally embedded into the economy and political life of American capitalism. For a movement against racist police violence to be sustainable, demands for community control over police must be combined with economic demands that address mass unemployment, low-wages, and underfunded services in communities of color. Demands for living wage jobs and quality public services can also unite wider numbers of workers in the struggle for racial equity. Alongside demands for full employment, affordable housing, and quality services, the fight for $15 offers a clear path forward, especially given the concentration of people of color into low-wage jobs.

In this context, SEIU and other union leaders are missing a major opportunity to extend the fight for $15 into a mass struggle with deep roots in communities of color. In a few cities, more far-thinking SEIU locals and Our Wal-Mart made efforts to openly link up the fight for $15 with the Ferguson-inspired protests, but unfortunately this was the exception.

The potential exists to further transform the national conversation, educating millions of workers that solidarity against racism is crucial if we are to build a broad, multi-racial mass movement capable of overcoming corporate domination of our economy. If union leaders fail to mobilize their resources to offer active solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter protests, and extend a serious invitation to fight together for $15, this window of opportunity could pass.

The Democratic Party’s Role

Unfortunately, the union leaders’ ties to the Democratic Party at the national and local level – where Democratic mayors oversee racist police policies in most major cities – undermine their ability to win the trust of youthful protesters. These same Democratic Party leaders have played a generally conservative role in the fight for $15. They sometimes offer solidarity in words to fast food workers protesting McDonalds, but fail to champion $15 where they have the power to act at the city, state, and federal level.

During the Ferguson protests especially, the Governor and other Democratic Party politicians who intervened did so mainly to quell the protests, either through supporting police repression or demanding protesters clear the streets to restore “peace.”

So it is understandable that many youthful #BlackLivesMatter protesters are afraid that partnering with politicians and union leaders risks co-optation. Some will remember that during the Occupy movement in 2011, SEIU’s president Mary Kay Henry orchestrated a joint national day of action with Occupy Wall Street leaders, only to use the event to offer SEIU’s high profile early endorsement of Obama, calling him the “President of the 99%” to the outrage of most Occupy activists.

There is mass popular anger at income inequality, racism, sexism, environmental destruction, and the corporate corruption of both major political parties. Polls show half of all young people have a negative view of capitalism, and anti-capitalist consciousness is highest in Black communities. The same youthful, combative, and radical mood expressed in the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011 are present today in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, with the crucial difference that today’s movement is bringing a more oppressed, working class section of youth to the forefront.

However, like Occupy before, the new movement against police racism will quickly face tough decisions. Endless protests and highway takeovers, if not connected to a clearly understood strategy to win tangible victories, will eventually exhaust the movement. A section of activists will be co-opted into the well funded non-profits and Democratic Party aligned efforts pushing for small-scale reforms.

Limiting our demands to band-aid reforms like police cameras or slowing the flow of military weaponry to local police, while positive, won’t be enough to inspire the kind of mass movement needed. There is a burning desire to see fundamental changes. Yet many liberal leaders make the mistake of limiting demands to what they believe the current system, the current government, can “realistically” deliver.

This so-called “realistic” approach fails in two ways. It fails because, as Malcolm X famously explained, “you can’t have capitalism without racism,” which means there is no way to meet the expectations of the movement for fundamental change without challenging the whole rotten system.

body cams not enough

The liberal approach of limiting our demands to small-scale reforms also fails because it undermines our strength to even win those small reforms! Mass movements are the only power that can win meaningful reforms for working people, but to inspire the level of energy and self-sacrifice needed to sustain mass struggle, activists need confidence that fundamental changes are within reach. How can this confidence be built when our fighting demands remain limited to what this rotten capitalist system and deeply corrupted two-party political system is prepared to deliver? Historically, all the most significant reforms within capitalism have been won when the ruling class is threatened with widening revolutionary consciousness.

In contrast to liberal leaders, socialists urge movements to link up demands around immediate small-scale reforms with bigger transformative demands that offer a vision of fundamental change. The young people demanding justice for Mike Brown and Eric Garner have made clear they want to live in a society free from racist police policies, free from poverty, from unequal jobs, unequal housing, unequal education, etc.

From #ShutItDown to #15Now

The movement will be strongest if, alongside demands for police accountability, outrage at the racism embedded in the capitalist economy can be mobilized into combative, grassroots campaigns for a $15/hour minimum wage, union rights, jobs for all, affordable housing, and taxing the rich to fund education and other basic services.

By linking up the fight against racism with the wider aspirations of the multi-racial US working class, the #BlackLivesMatter movement could win over far wider numbers of workers and youth into active struggle against racism. The momentum already built up behind the fight for $15/hour minimum wage and low-wage worker organizing offers a natural starting point, especially after the organic connections made during the Black Friday week of action. However, this will only be successful if the idea takes hold among the leading activists of the #BlackLivesMatters movement, if they take independent initiatives reflecting the radicalism of the youth, rather than initiatives imposed from without.

15 Now was launched in early 2014 to create space for a broad grassroots movement for $15 to develop, independent of the Democratic Party and the more conservative union leaders. Across the country, 15 Now works as closely as possible with SEIU and other forces involved in the fight for $15, while always maintaining an independent approach based on the perspectives of building a broad-based, bottom-up mass campaign for $15/hr, fighting in our workplaces and for raising the minimum wage.

Members of Show Me $15 in North St. Louis (Credit: David Nehrt-Flores)

To win a $15/hour minimum wage nationally, and other transformative demands for millions living in poverty, its going to take a truly mass movement imbued with the same spirit of resistance we’ve seen on display since Mike Brown and Eric Garner were murdered. New independent grassroots organizations with deep roots in communities of color will be needed.

15 Now should aim to be a part of this process. Already in Seattle, this grassroots approach was key to winning a $15/hour minimum wage. We tapped into the occupy-inspired indignation at inequality and built a multi-racial grassroots campaign that took a combative, uncompromising approach toward Seattle’s political establishment. Strong 15 Now campaigns have also been built in several more cities, from Philadelphia to Minneapolis, where we have established an impressive base of support among workers, community activists, and within the trade unions. Let’s surge forward toward mass campaigns for $15 in 2015!


Important development: Philadelphia City Council Looks at $15/hour Minimum Wage

By Kate Goodman, 15 Now Philly

On Thursday, December 11th, during the last 2014 session of the Philadelphia City Council, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson introduced a resolution that would authorize a hearing on the $15 an hour minimum wage in Philadelphia. Over 30 members of 15 Now Philly attended the session and cheered loudly as Councilman Johnson a introduced the hearing resolution. Two low-wage workers, Justin Murden, who works in a Center City bar and as a security guard at one of Philadelphia’s sports stadiums, and Sarah Giskin, a Temple student working two low wage service sector jobs, testified to demonstrate Philadelphia’s need for an immediate raise in the minimum wage.

The resolution was approved unanimously by City Council. The hearing will be held mid-February in front of the Committee of Commerce & Economic Development. 15 Now Philly is working with Johnson’s office to set an exact date.

Councilman Johnson’s office and 15 Now Philly are working together to gather low wage workers and workers’ rights organizations, policy experts, business owners, respected economists and local government law experts to testify in front of council to demonstrate the merit and the legality of raising Philadelphia’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Before the hearing, 15 Now Philly will be working to secure support from more City Council members and doing grassroots organizing to pack the hearings.

Pennsylvania has a so-called preemption law that is widely interpreted as banning cities from raising the minimum wage above state levels, which is $7.25 in Pennsylvania. However, 15 Now and legal allies are challenging that interpretation and building political pressure to assert Philadelphia’s right to act on behalf of low-wage workers.

15 Now Philly and allied low wage worker groups were already planning to hold Philadelphia’s 1st ever Low Wage Worker Summit on  Saturday, January 17th. Restaurant workers, airport workers, fast food workers, adjunct professors, taxi drivers, and healthcare workers are expected to attend to strategize about Philly’s upcoming elections and plan for a year of worker victories, including the $15 minimum wage, during 2015.