Three dozen low wage workers were hauled off to a Detroit jail Tuesday morning, after protestors sat down in the middle of busy thoroughfare during rush hour as part of a national effort to help call attention to the need for a $15 hourly wage, union rights and other social concerns.
Those arrested were among thousands who demonstrated, went on strike and got locked up across the country Tuesday to make their most ambitious statement yet in the movement for a $15 hourly wage and union rights. Homecare, childcare, fast food, retail, Uber drivers and airport workers will continue to protest throughout the day, from Los Angeles to Michigan to Pennsylvania.
“I’m willing to get arrested for what I believe in,” said LaWanda Williamson, a 22-year-old McDonald’s worker who took her place on busy Grand River Avenue on Detroit’s west side, shortly before being loaded onto a bright blue and yellow bus brought there by the Detroit Police Department. Williamson, who earns the state’s minimum wage of $8.50 an hour, donned a red and black shirt with the words, ‘my future is worth my freedom,’ on the front.
The arrests in Detroit occurred after an hour-long protest at the McDonald’s restaurant, where protestors lined the street before taking a march around the store. Cries of ‘we want our wages supersized!’ and “I want my $15!” rang out, as passersby leaned on their car horns in a show of support.
Workers also protested briefly just after 6 a.m. outside of a Flint McDonald’s, before police converged and broke things up.
The strikes and protests in Michigan were part of a nationwide day of disruption that includes workers walking off their jobs in 340 cities from coast to coast, and as the effort for higher wages marks its 4-year anniversary. A report released Tuesday by the National Employment Law Project shows the Fight for $15 has won nearly $62 billion in raises for working families since that first strike in 2012. That’s 10 times larger than the total raise received by workers in all 50 states under Congress’s last federal minimum wage increase, approved in 2007.
Carl Watkins of Detroit was prepared to go to jail Tuesday in solidarity with the person who provides his homecare—Renita Wilson who earns $8.50 an hour. But police refused to arrest Watkins, who suffers from a host of health challenges ranging from diabetes to heart troubles. Watkins said his concern is for those like him who need, “long term care” and the need to adequately pay those who provide it.
“I wanted to be here in support,” said Watkins.