MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Service workers fighting for higher wages took to the nation’s streets Tuesday, including in the Twin Cities.
Hundreds gathered outside fast-food restaurants and airports in what’s billed as a National “Fight for $15 Day of Disruption.”
But more than better wages and union rights, protesters are also sending a message against racism and deportations.
Outside a south Minneapolis McDonald’s on Tuesday morning, police cited 21 protesters for refusing to get up off the street.
“These wages for fast food workers are too low, they’re depriving us of what we really need to make,” said Steven Suffridge, a fast-food worker. “We can’t survive on $9.50 an hour.”
Some airport workers say they can’t either.
“Airplanes have toilets on them, right? That stuff’s got to go somewhere, right? Well, I’m the guy who takes the somewhere,” said Pao Chua Vang, who works at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, in a midday news conference.
But at $9.50 an hour, airport workers recently voted to organize. Abdi Ali led a successful fight to join the Service Employees International Union.
“We want a strong community for all Minnesotans, no matter where you come from no matter who you are,” he said at the news conference at MSP. “We are safe here and want to work for the community.”
But higher wages isn’t the sole message. Protesters fear an anti-immigrant agenda from President-Elect Donald Trump.
Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American and Muslim elected to the Minnesota Legislature, says it’s these very people who keep the airport going.
“In our airport, the workers are Ethiopian and Somalian and make up thousands of employees that make our airport one of the greatest airports of our nation,” she said.
The protesters are calling on the Minneapolis City Council to pass a $15 minimum wage.
In August, a referendum that would have let voters decide was stripped from the November ballot.
Now, the issue is back in the council’s hands.