For Immediate Release
Ahead of Primary, Fast-Food Workers in South Carolina To Strike, March on GOP Debate
Fight for $15 Intensifies in Palmetto State with First-Ever Greenville walkout
Fifty-three percent of state’s workers paid less than $15/hour; First-time voters to call on candidates to come get their votes
GREENSBORO, N.C. - With the 2016 election spotlight turning to South Carolina, fast-food cooks and cashiers announced they will walk off the job across the state, including for the first time in Greenville, hours before Saturday’s GOP presidential debate. The workers, who are calling for $15 and union rights, will strike and protest two days after Milwaukee workers stormed the Democratic debate at the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin.
As candidates are scrambling for African American votes in South Carolina, the very voters they are trying to reach are making a stand: Striking fast-food workers will join more than a thousand underpaid workers – many of whom are first-time voters – at a massive protest outside the GOP presidential debate in Greenville Saturday to demand that candidates stand with the 53% of workers in the state who are paid less than $15/hour.
“Every election I’ve walked right past the ballot box – not into it – because I believed my vote wasn’t worth anything,” said Richard Baxter, a Subway worker from Greenville, S.C., who is paid $8.50/hour and will be voting for the first time. “But the Fight for $15 has changed that. Across the country, workers are following presidential candidates everywhere they go to show we’re serious about supporting those who fight for $15 and union rights. With 53% of South Carolina workers paid less than $15/hour, we need to elect politicians who are dedicated to changing our future – and the future of our families.”
Saturday, Feb. 13: Schedule of South Carolina 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.
1pm ET Strike | McDonald’s at 2443 Laurens Rd Greenville, SC 29607
Striking South Carolina fast-food workers available for interviews.
7pm ET Protest at GOP Debate| Falls Park, 601 S Main St Greenville, SC 29607
Massive crowd of underpaid workers will march on the GOP 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.
· Milwaukee: In November, following a nationwide strikein 270 cities and an evening protest outside the GOP debate in Milwaukee, thefirst questiondirected at candidates that night asked them to respond to the demands of fast-food workers seeking $15 and union rights. And on Thursday, hundreds of workers crashed the Democratic debate’s media center an hour before the forum kicked off. “The protest was comprised largely of young, black fast food workers from Wisconsin, where 46 percent of workers make less than $15 hourly,” Yahoo News reported.
Striking fast-food workers will be joined by home care, child care and other underpaid workers from across South Carolina who are fighting for $15/hour and union rights.
“Candidates who want caregivers’ votes need to resolve to end the crisis in long-term care, and that starts with $15/hour and union rights,” said Delica Rice-Smith, who lives in Greenville with her two children and is paid $9.50/hour. “Home care is one of America’s fastest-growing jobs, but we’re among the lowest paid workers in the country. I can’t afford my car payments, let alone regular bills like rent and utilizes. I’ve been working in home care for 5 years, and have seen how hard it is for many to keep doing the job we love because of the low pay. My children’s futures depend on fixing our broken home care system, as does the health of parents and grandparents everywhere.”
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.”
“No one works in child care for big bucks, but when I’m paid $8.00 an hour, I can’t afford essentials for myself such as rent,” said Tamariah Meritt a Greenville child care worker. “Every kid deserves a healthy, happy environment at home and at the care center when their parents are working. But too many of us can’t afford the basics and too many parents can’t afford quality care. Politicians have the power to change that. We need our leaders to support $15 an hour and affordable care for all families, so that no child’s needs go unmet.”
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.