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Detroit workers rally for $15 minimum wage

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit – Samira Hyter works as a cashier at Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen in Redford, making $8.90 an hour. Even working 30 hours a week, the 19-year-old says she still does not earn enough money to help feed and clothe her seven siblings.

“If I could make more, it would really help my family,” Hyter said.

Hyter with other fast-food workers and several hundred supporters gathered Monday at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park in Detroit to demand a $15 minimum wage and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic 1968 Memphis sanitation worker strike.

The event is a renewal of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign led by Martin Luther King Jr and was held in conjunction with a nationwide day of protests including events in Memphis, Cleveland, Chicago, Houston, Milwaukee and Des Moines, officials said.

Hospital workers, janitors belonging to the Service Employees International Union and faith leaders gathered in the park on West Grand Boulevard and held signs saying “Fight for $15,” a movement led by fast food workers, fighting for a $15 an hour living wage, the right to form a union without retaliation and respect in the workplace.

“This is a renewed call for working people to come together for Martin Luther King’s campaign. This is a continuation of that fight,” said SEIU spokesperson Nick Desideri.

The group marched down West Grand Boulevard to a McDonald’s where they continued their fight for higher wages and union rights by chanting outside the fast food chain, at times blocking a drive-through lane for customers.

Lisia Williams, 45, Clinton Township is an organizer with the "Fight for 15" initiative.

“McDonald’s, McDonald’s can’t you see, what your wage has done to me?” several dozen protestors chanted with megaphones.

Laphan Jefferson drove to Detroit from his home in Flint to be a part of Monday’s rally.

“People just want to eat. They shouldn’t have to work two jobs,” he said as he walked with the protestors.

Christine Wright says she worked two jobs in the fast-food industry all her life to support six children. The Detroit woman said the time has come to pay people a respectful wage.

“I want to help them get paid $15 an hour. It should be $20. People word hard and they should be paid well,” Wright said.