Workers rally to raise minimum wage to $15

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Luwanda Williamson wants to be a defense attorney, but the 23-year-old Detroiter said she struggles to make ends meet on her minimum-wage fast-food job.

“That’s not fair,” Williamson said of earning only $8.90 an hour and described the litany of bills her wages have to cover.

“I’m only getting maybe 25 hours a week, 30 hours a week. Not even that. When I get my check I’m looking at less than $300 every two weeks. Rent due every three weeks. I still have to work on lights, gas, water, tissue, soap. This $8.90 is really not enough.”

Williamson was among the more than 500 workers, racial justice activists and clergy who gathered Tuesday in the lobby of Cadillac Place in Midtown to call for a mandatory minimum wage of $15 an hour.

The protesters chanted in the lobby, “I believe the dream” and “this is was democracy looks like.” Many held red signs stating “Fight for 15” but continued outside on West Grand Boulevard after Michigan State Police told them they would have to ditch the signs and bullhorns if they wanted to rally inside the building.

The protest was part of a 22-city “Fight Racism, Raise Pay” on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., according to organizers.

“All of these corporations that are not paying people $15 an hour and not allowing them to unionize, we came to let them know we are fed up and we’re not going to take it no more,” said the Rev. W.J. Rideout III, who spoke to the crowd with a bullhorn.

Rideout said King died fighting for the rights of individuals to have a livable wage, economic justice and racial justice. “We came today to continue on with the dream,” he said.

Nickie Johnson, a 54-year-old home care worker, said he earns $236 a month from the state to take care of his 74-year-old mother around the clock. He said he has about a dozen friends, some taking care of multiple people, who earn about the same.

“Some are getting less,” he said.

Loretta Nesbitt, 78, said she supports home care workers earning more than $200 a month. She said at one point her daughter was compensated from the state to provide care for her.

“I think they should be compensated (more),” she said.

Williamson said earning $15 an hour would make a big difference.

“I would be able to provide for myself more,” she said. “I would hopefully be able to save up for a car instead of catching the bus to and from work. It would make a big difference for myself and the community.”

Some business owners say they can’t afford paying $15 an hour and that it could force them to close or cut back on the number of employees. The push to raise the minimum wage has prompted some Republican state Legislatures to pre-empt local governments from raising wages, according to the advocacy group National Employment Law Project.

More than 20 states have such laws, the group said.

(313) 222-2311

Associated Press contributed to this report.