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Wisconsin Fast-Food Workers to Strike for $15, Union Rights Ahead of Democratic Presidential Debate in Milwaukee

Walkout to Culminate in Massive March, Rally Outside Debate, Months After Similar Protest Put GOP Candidates on Hot Seat

MILKWAUKEE, Wisc. - Hours before the Democratic presidential debate Thursday, fast-food workers across Wisconsin will walk off the job to demand $15/hour and union rights, and will join more than a thousand underpaid workers at a massive protest outside the debate, calling on candidates to stand with the 46% of workers in the state who are paid less than $15/hour.

Wisconsin workers fighting for $15/hour and union rights are converging in Milwaukee for the second time during the 2016 presidential primary season, following a major protest outside the Nov. 10 GOP debate. The first question directed at candidates that night asked them to respond to the demands of the fast-food workers just outside the door. Striking fast-food workers have helped make the economy and income inequality dominant issues in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Many of the workers striking and protesting on Thursday will be voting for the first time this election to support candidates who promise to fight for $15/hour and union rights.

“I never thought my voice could make a difference,” said Kyesha Lee, a McDonald’s worker form Milwaukee, Wisc. who is paid $8.25/hour and will be voting for the first time this year. “The Fight for $15 has shown me that’s not true. Across the country, politicians have responded to workers out in the street marching for $15/hour and union rights, and we’re seeing workers win pay raises everywhere from L.A. to New York. It’s because of these victories that I’ll be protesting this Thursday – because I know that when workers like me band together, we can win.”

Thursday, Feb. 11: Schedule of Wisconsin Fight for $15 Strike Actions and Events

Ongoing Media Availability

Striking fast-food workers available throughout the day for interviews. Contact Giovanna or Anna above to arrange.

12:00pm CT Strike | McDonald’s, 420 E Capitol, Milwaukee

Striking Wisconsin fast-food workers available for interviews. Strike to feature compelling visuals.

5:00pm CT Rally and March to Debate | Lake Park, Newberry Blvd & Lake Drive, Milwaukee

Massive crowd of underpaid workers and supporters will march from Lake Park to the Democratic debate.

Everywhere candidates go this primary season, workers in the Fight for $15 are following them, forcing White House hopefuls to address the demands of the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15, and in many cases drowning out supporters for the individual candidates:

·         New Hampshire: Days ahead of the New Hampshire primary, fast-food workers across the Granite State waged their first-ever strike, which culminated in a massive protest outside a GOP debate in Manchester. ABC News, filming live from the debate site, reported, “The volume was just turned up quite a bit out here, but it’s not actually GOP supporters: a big group with signs saying the Fight for $15 – they want a $15/hour minimum wage – came in and took over the place.”

·         Iowa: Ahead of the Iowa caucus, fast-food workers in the state walked off the job for the first time, and a massive crowd of more than a thousand workers stormed the lobby of the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, drawing widespread attention hours before a GOP debate that evening.

·         South Carolina: And earlier this year, a walkout by hundreds of fast-food workers in Charlestonprompted a statement of support by the Democratic National Committee and animpromptu visit from  Sen. Bernie Sanders, who grabbed a bullhorn and  praised the strikers just moments before he took the floor for that night’s Democratic debate.

Striking fast-food workers will be joined by home care and other underpaid workers from across the state who are fighting for $15/hour and union rights. Thursday’s walkout will be the 10th by Milwaukee fast-food workers since they joined the Fight for $15 in May 2013.

“I am a first-time voter, and the honor and responsibility of that isn’t lost on me,” said Cornelius Powell, a home care worker from Milwaukee, Wisc. who is paid $9.50 an hour. “Home care workers help hold our communities together and care for one another, and now we’re calling on politicians to do the same. Low-wage workers and young people have the most at stake in this election. I know every politician wants a 19-year-old’s vote, but if they want it they’ll have to stand for $15 and union rights!”

As the Fight for $15 builds a political front ahead of the 2016 election, the New York Times and USA Today have both warned candidates who ignore the growing movement that they do so “at their own peril.” Meanwhile, the Associated Press said underpaid workers are flexing, “increasingly potent political muscle,” and BuzzFeed has said they “could make up a powerful new voting bloc.”

Ahead of the election, workers will continue to collect signatures on their Fight for $15 Voter Agenda, a five-point platform that launched late last year and calls for $15 and union rights, affordable child care, quality long-term care, racial justice and immigration reform—issues identified by underpaid workers as key factors in whether they will go to the polls for a candidate. They will put politicians on notice that, as a voting bloc, workers paid less than $15 could swing elections all across the country.

A recent poll of workers paid less than $15/hour commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union; and that 65% of registered voters paid less than $15/hour would be more likely to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union. That’s 48 million potential voters paid less than $15 who could turn out if there were candidates who backed higher pay and union rights.

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Fast food workers are coming together all over the country to fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. We work for corporations that are making tremendous profits, but do not pay employees enough to support our families and to cover basic needs like food, health care, rent and transportation.

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