President Trump is notorious for his singularly ravenous appetite for power. But this May Day, the workers who are struggling to put food on our tables are biting back with a vengeance.
The protests and strikes flooding the streets today are powered by communities that have been particularly ferociously attacked by Trump: people of color, migrant workers, low-wage workers and fast-food and service workers with the Fight for 15 campaign. These movements reflect the parallel and intersecting currents of American labor radicalism, and the global momentum of International Workers Day.
Many of the leading groups are striking for migrant rights. A call for mass strikes involving hundreds of thousands of workers and scores of cities was declared at a DC rally, led by the Food Chain Workers Alliance, California’s SEIU service-workers union, the Fight for 15 movement, and other regional and national labor groups.
Food-chain-worker organizer José Oliva proclaimed: “Without workers, who does Trump think will harvest the crops, craft the food, transport it to market, stock the shelves, cook in kitchens, and serve the meals?”
The answer ringing out from working-class communities attests to a deep legacy of migrant and transborder struggles forming the backbone of labor. Because the food chain and migration are so intertwined, food-chain workers are a core inspiration for this year’s Day Without Immigrants.
The Fight for 15 is relatively youthful, spawned from a scrappy wildcat strike at a Manhattan McDonald’s in the winter of 2012. But after five years of mushrooming wildly around the world, the campaign’s demands for a living wage and organizing rights have now entered everyday political discourse. The movement has already won a path to a living wage for millions of workers through various state- and company-level measures nationwide, and Congress is now weighing a new legislative proposal for a $15 minimum hourly wage and hike in the tipped wage for restaurant and service sectors.
Though still not a living wage in most places, the campaign’s call for $15 an hour harnesses the energy that has been unleashed by the post-recession unrest. The movement has won support from Silicon Valley tycoons, Black Lives Matter activists, and progressive officials. If a nationwide $15-an-hour minimum wage were achieved, food service and production as well as related industries like hospitality and logistics would see some of the largest wage boosts as a result of more than doubling the current, massively outdated federal $7.25 wage floor.