Thousands of protesters from 20 industries across the country marched down Richmond’s historic Monument Ave. on Aug. 13 as part of the Fight for $15 Convention to protest for racial and economic equality.
Beginning on August 13 in Monroe Park, participants marched down W. Franklin St. and Monument Ave., concluding with a rally in front of the Robert E. Lee Monument for a keynote speech by Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and a speaker at this year’s Democratic National Convention.
“It took us 400 years to go from slavery to now. To get from $0 to $7.25 (an hour),” Barber said. “We can’t wait another 400 years.”
The march was the culmination of the Fight for $15 convention, which began on Aug. 12 at the Richmond Convention Center and featured speakers including Mary Kay Henry, national president of the Service Employees International Union.
“It doesn’t make sense for someone to work 40 hours a week and still live in poverty,” said Tonia McMillian, a childcare provider from Los Angeles. “I’m so tired of the stronghold on this country and Richmond seems to be the heart of it. Let’s bust that heart wide open. We’re here to do heart surgery.”
The federal minimum wage was first introduced in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the Fair Labor Standards Act at 25 cents.
“When the minimum wage was first introduced, it was meant that a single earner was supposed to raise a family on 40 hours a week,” said Chris McKinney, a protester who attended the rally. “Conservatives who argue against a livable minimum wage have been wrong for 80 years. For longer than they’ve been alive.”
Melissa Benjamin, a home care provider from Denver, said she hopes an increase in the minimum wage makes her children’s lives easier.
“I have two children,” Benjamin said. “If I don’t do something, my children will grow up with the same economic and racial injustices.”
While no one opposed to the minimum wage could be reached comment at the march, detractors took to Facebook to voice their criticisms.
“You cannot get $15 per hour jobs if all you have to offer is $3.00 per hour skills,” stated a Facebook user named John in a post.
Virginia’s minimum wage was last changed in January 2014. It now sits at $7.25. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator, the living wage for a single adult in Richmond is $11.93.
“Let’s see, when it is all said and done, how much their appearance here will add to our local economy and how much of a mess to be cleaned up (paid for by our tax $$) will they leave,” Janet Townsend Sullivan, a Facebook user stated in a post.
This month’s protest was the most recent in a string of major demonstrations held by Fight for $15 advocates in Richmond. In April, activists gathered outside of a McDonald’s restaurant on W. Broad St to demand a wage increase.
Rob Lawrence, chief operating officer for the Richmond Ambulance Authority, said in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch there were 33 cases of heat-related injuries at Saturday’s march. There were no reported incidents of violence or arrests made during the march, according to the Richmond Police Department.
Richmond Times-Dispatch there were 33 cases of heat-related injuries at Saturday’s march. There were no reported incidents of violence or any arrests made during the march, according to Richmond Police.
Spectrum Editor, Jesse Adcock
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