SEIU Rallies for $15 Minimum Wage

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Members of Service Employees International Union District 1199 say that those working for minimum wage today simply can’t make ends meet, and many are forced to either work another job or seek government subsidies to survive.

“We’re trying to fight for social and economic justice for everybody,” said Pam Stewart, administrative organizer with District 1199 . “We believe that increasing the minimum wage will help everybody all around.”

The SEIU is holding rallies all across the country today in support of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current rate of $8.10 and hour, relates Bill Padisak, president of the Mahoning-Trumbull AFL-CIO.

A handful of labor representatives gathered in front of City Hall Tuesday morning in conjunction with the larger effort. Two other events, one in Salem and another in Warren, are scheduled for 3 p.m.

In all, the SEIU has 23 rallies planned throughout Ohio today. The city hall protests, as well as a nationwide fast food workers’ strike scheduled for today, are part of the “Fight for $15” movement that is gaining momentum in support of boosting the wages of workers who they say are underpaid.

“Many communities across the country have raised their wages to $15,” Padisak said. “It’s more of a wage that you can support a family with. The current minimum wage just doesn’t cut it.”

Padisak points to fast-food workers in New York state who received a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour, a measure that he said has helped communities tremendously by putting more money into workers’ pockets, which circulates throughout the local economy. “It brings back money into the communities, it helps families and helps the economy.”

Padisak said that 43% of working Americans earn less than $15 per hour. “You can’t have a healthy, sustainable economy when you have that many people making that little amount in wages.”

A recent survey of 166 economists published by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows that 75% of those economists polled oppose a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour.

Most say that $15 an hour minimum wage would have a negative effect on youth employment, adult employment and the number of available jobs, while 67% of those surveyed said that raising the wage rate would make it harder for small companies to stay in business.

“We’ve heard those arguments in the past,” Padisak said, “but that hasn’t proven to be true in the communities that have raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. They’ve survived and they’re still making money.”

Some, he acknowledged, have raised the prices of their products such as pizzas and other items, but Padisak reports that he hasn’t heard of serious job cuts. “It actually puts more money into the pockets of people who can then purchase these goods and services,” he said.

Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has come out in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, while U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has co-sponsored the Pay Workers A Living Wage Act, which would phase in an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 until 2020. After 2020, the minimum wage would be indexed to the median hourly wage and the tipped minimum wage would be gradually eliminated.

“No one in this country who works full time should be forced to live in poverty,” Brown said in a statement. “But for many workers, it feels as though the harder and longer they work, the less they have to show for it. Raising the minimum wage would help grow our middle class, and grow our economy.

“I hope my colleagues in Washington will hear the voices of the hundreds of thousands of workers taking action today around the country, demanding fair pay for their labor,” he continued.

There is also the potential of tapping into a large, untapped voting bloc of 48 million people who could turn out and vote for those political candidates that support these issues.

Padisak said the SEIU has made it clear that they would not support candidates for political office who do not agree with its platform. “If they’re against us, then why should we go out and campaign for them,” he said.

Pictured: Bill Padisak, president, Mahoning and Trumbull AFL-CIO, and Pam Stewart, administrative organizer, SCIU District 1199, at Youngstown City Hall.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.