On Feb. 12, fifty years after the sanitation workers in Memphis marched with Martin Luther King Jr. to demand better wages and safer labor conditions, Fight for $15 will launch a massive workers’ strike in two dozen cities across the Southern United States.
The strike will raise awareness and demand racial justice, while also advocating for voting rights and a livable minimum wage.
Civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber has partnered with Fight for $15 in this enormous event. “There’s no separation between the moral battle for voting rights and participation in democracy and the moral battle against systemic poverty. Those battles go together,” says Barber.
Fight for $15 is calling on fast-food workers in southern cities to strike on February 12. The day of action will also include a moment of silence for the two Memphis sanitation workers who were killed after being crushed to death by a garbage truck’s compactor in February 1968. It was their deaths that triggered a two-month strike.
Hundreds of fast-food workers will strike and travel to Memphis, where they will march for the Fight for $15 movement and the renewal of the Poor People’s Campaign, a movement that Dr. King originally supported.
Leaders of Fight for $15 and the new Poor People’s Campaign believe that they can continue King’s work and his original vision. King was assassinated on on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, where he was supporting the sanitation workers’ strike.
“The word ‘poor’ has virtually been removed from our political discourse and removed from our moral discussion,” Barber said. “We need a re-imagination and resurrection of why Dr. King and so many others went to Memphis and joined in the Poor People’s Campaign. We’re bringing two movements together – people fighting for a living wage, a lot of young people, along with poor people, moral leaders, people of faith. We believe we can build a movement that can shift the narrative. Right now, we have an ugly narrative – ‘Elect me, I’ll take away healthcare, I’ll hurt the poor, and I’ll give tax breaks to the wealthy.’”
Fight for $15 was founded in 2012, and has since helped over 20 million workers win wage increases, many in large cities such as Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The group is calling on people all over the country that can’t make it to Memphis to join in the movement and rally in their own cities.