Protesters rally outside GOP debate venue in Detroit
Detroit — Low-wage workers rallied for higher pay, protesting outside a Republican gubernatorial debate venue Thursday.
Organizers said they wanted to "highlight how Republican state lawmakers and politicians have undercut unions, wages and healthcare for low-income Michiganders" and pushed for a $15 minimum wage.
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"It's extremely hard, frustrating and stressful" to make ends meet, said Sheila Butts of Detroit, who works in a nursing home in Beverly Hills. "I often braid hair on the side but my carpal tunnel is setting in my hands and I won't be able to do that much longer ... I'm here to fight for better health care and higher wages."
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, state Sen. Pat Colbeck and Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines met Thursday for a final televised debate at WDIV-TV (Channel 4) on Lafayette in Detroit.
About 300 protesters held signs outside the debate site that said "Stop the war on workers" and chanted "No justice, no peace" and "This is what democracy looks like" as they blocked people from entering the building that was broadcasting the GOP debate.
Butts, 58, has two daughters in college who have minimum-wage jobs. The family visits food banks at least once a week, she said.
Protesters included women and mothers.
Jasmine Hall, 29, a mother of two who works as a janitor at the Detroit-Wayne County Airport, makes $12 an hour.
"When you see billions of dollars coming through the place you work and you can't send your babies a $5 field trip ... I never have enough. I hardly make it to payday," said Hall of Detroit. "No, $15 isn't enough, but it's a start. Closer to a decent living. It took me five years to get to $12 from minimum wage."
SEIU Healthcare, a local union with 10,000 members in Michigan who work in healthcare, had representatives at the protest.
"We represent the working men and women of Michigan who serve in jobs so critical, who contribute to the economy and who are voters," said spokesman Adam Bingman. "The politicians refuse to meet with us or give any public stance and now we have to force them to."