A big crowd of fast-food workers and their supporters marched through downtown Phoenix Tuesday afternoon demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union rights.
“In today’s economy and with the cost of living, $15 an hour is the bare minimum needed to get by,” said Gilbert Romero, one of the organizers of the march.
The protest was part of the nationwide “Fight for $15” campaign that involved workers in 270 cities walking off their jobs. Thousands also took to the streets to join the workers in marches and rallies. Some protested outside the auditorium in Milwaukee where the Republican presidential debate was being held.
In Phoenix, hundreds of people gathered at the Civic Space Park before heading to the Phoenix City Hall, where fast-food workers made the case for why they’d like to see the minimum wage increase to $15 an hour.
“I’m making $8.75 an hour working at McDonald’s, and I can barely afford to pay for all the necessary expenses and to support my family,” said Diana Abello, a single mother of four.
Abello said all her money goes to paying for bills. She also can’t afford to buy a car so she usually takes the bus or rides her bike to work.
Virginia Aries, also a mother of four, faces a similar situation. She has been working at McDonald’s for 13 years and now makes $9.85 an hour.
"I don’t make enough to buy my children all the things that they need," said Virginia Aries, who works at McDonald's.
“It has been very difficult, because I don’t make enough to buy my children all the things that they need,” she said. “They do get sad [because] when the next paycheck comes in, there are other expenses that come up.”
Several elected officials joined the march, including Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo. He fired up the crowd when he said: “We are tired of big corporations and big businesses reaping the benefits of hardworking Arizonans and not giving them the decent wage they need to provide for their families. We’re here to say enough is enough. We want a decent wage for working families.”
Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski and State Representative Juan Mendez also participated in the march.
Besides calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the crowd also urged the Phoenix City Council to approve a plan that would create a municipal identification card. They made a stop at the Phoenix City Council building as they marched to the City Hall.
Supporters of the card say it would allow Phoenix residents to more conveniently access the city’s public services. It also could function as proof of identity for the homeless and for undocumented immigrants.
Nowakowski expressed his support for the municipal ID card, telling the crowd that he sees it as a public-safety concern: “We need to make sure that people walking in our streets have an ID.”