Across the country Wednesday, tens of thousands of low-wage workers protested for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, marking the latest—and largest—battle in a widening war to boost pay in the service sector and, more broadly, to draw increased attention to the U.S. wage gap.
The protests, which were backed by the Service Employees International Union and other unions and progressive activist groups, occurred in several major cities including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington.
Politicians in DC—and on the campaign trail—were presented with a crucial test: whether to voice support for what is the biggest existing, grassroots challenge to the unequal American economic structure. Several outlets noted it raised a particularly pointed question for Hillary Clinton, who is leading polls for the Democratic nomination and began her campaign the same week as the large-scale protest. Would she, as The New York Times asked Monday, speak to the “the desire of voters and party activists for an aggressive approach to mitigating income inequality”?
Late Wednesday night, a tweet from Clinton’s campaign account, signed by the candidate, provided the answer:
Every American deserves a fair shot at success. Fast food & child care workers shouldn’t have to march in streets for living wages. -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) April 16, 2015
Many see the “Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity,” co-chaired by Lawrence Summers and UK Labour leader Ed Balls, as a tentative economic blueprint for the nascent Clinton campaign. Clinton’s support for the “Fight for 15” movement is consistent with what’s outlined in the report: among other things, it says that it’s important for “minimum wages…adjust to keep up with pay at the middle and top.” It calls for “a minimum wage that is at least high enough to prevent full-time workers from living in poverty,” specifically, a pay rate of “at least $10.10 per hour” and linked to the consumer price index.
The repeated “at least” qualifiers left uncertain what pay rate, exactly, Clinton thinks should be the floor. In the Times story Monday, progressive economist Dean Baker noted there is pressure on Clinton to “come up with a number,” and her tweet Wednesday was clearly intended to support the workers asking for $15 per hour.