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"We need livable wages because we can't break a glass ceiling we can't reach," argued the Sierra Club's Aaron Mair. (Photo: Fight for 15)

In Synchronized Strikes Around the World, Workers #Fightfor15

Minimum-wage workers in over 300 cities and more than 40 countries are striking for a living wage

Nika Knight Beauchamp

From Glasgow to Bangalore to Moscow to San Diego, the message was the same: "no more poverty wages!"

Declaring their right to a living wage, beleaguered workers around the world walked off their jobs on Thursday in synchronized global strikes.

The protests were organized by the Fight for 15 campaign, which is underwritten by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and began as a U.S.-based movement four years ago when a few hundred fast food workers in New York went on strike for a $15 hourly minimum wage and the right to form a union.

Today, the progressive labor movement has united workers across a broad range of industries and locales. Striking on Thursday were federal contract workers in Washington, D.C., textile workers in Bangalore, adjunct professors in Boston, and childcare, home care, and elder care workers across the United States. They were joined by fast food workers rallying against low ages in Brazil, Argentina, Scotland, and New Zealand, among many other countries.

The striking workers spoke of solidarity and unity in their respective battles against corporate greed.

"Nursing home chains, not unlike McDonald's and other corporations, keep wages low to make their profits higher instead of investing in those of us who actually provide direct care," said Maribel Rodriguez, who has worked as a certified nursing assistant for 29 years in Florida, in a statement from SEIU.

In Florida alone, 16,000 employees working in 19 nursing homes are striking for 24 hours against Consulate Health Care, one of the largest nursing home chains in the country, which pays 90 percent of its workers less than $15 an hour, according to communications coordinator of SEIU local 1199 Jose Suarez.

Workers in nursing homes are tasked with ensuring that "our parents and grandparents are living out their lives with dignity and respect, yet they can't go home and take care of their families" with the poverty wages they are currently being paid, Suarez said in a phone interview with Common Dreams.

"There is a moral responsibly for companies, especially large corporations," Suarez argued, "to pay a living wage."

"That's why we’re standing up for better quality jobs for all workers—and we're winning," Rodriguez said.

Presidential contender Bernie Sanders expressed his support on Twitter:

"Not too long ago, the establishment told us that a $15 minimum wage was unrealistic or 'pie-in-the-sky,'" Sanders wrote on the social media platform, "but a grassroots movement led by millions of working people refused to take 'no' for an answer."

"We're making progress in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, California, New York and Oregon," continued Sanders, referring to American cities and states that have recently passed legislation mandating a $15 per hour minimum wage. "This campaign is about building on these successes so that everyone in this country can enjoy the dignity of a living wage."

Fast food workers in France's Eurodisney theme park also went on strike on Thursday. (Photo: Fight for 15)

President of the Sierra Club Aaron Mair also issued a statement of solidarity, drawing connections between the labor and the environmental movements:

The Sierra Club is proud to stand in solidarity with low-wage workers because a fight for a livable wage is the exact same fight for our environment. Often, the industries that pollute the most pay the least. Workers are paying the price: people living in low income neighborhoods are more likely to live with the effects of polluted air. Low income families, especially women and children of color, are disproportionately affected by environmental toxins.

[...] Corporations are making massive profits, but the toxic shortcuts they’re taking to pad their pocketbooks are causing hardworking families to live without the ability to cover their basic needs like food, health care, child care, rent and transportation, all while bearing the brunt of their employer’s corporate pollution.

In an op-ed, Mair expanded on his argument, writing, "People in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to live with the effects of polluted air, with lower income women, especially women of color, disproportionately impacted by environmental toxins. On top of that, low wage jobs are some of the most environmentally hazardous jobs there are, especially when workers lack union representation."

"We need livable wages," Mair declared, "because we can't break a glass ceiling we can't reach."

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