Fight for $15 uses Labor Day to kick off voter engagement initiative

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(Source: Mike Schmidt, 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: Mike Schmidt, 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: Department of Numbers) (Source: Department of Numbers)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

The yearslong "Fight for $15" kicked off a new initiative Monday – Labor Day – with a new wave of protests in 300 cities across the country, including Phoenix.

Monday's strikes and marches are the beginning of a "massive voter engagement drive aimed at unseating anti-worker politicians and electing leaders who support a $15/hour minimum wage and union rights," according to a news release about the Phoenix event.

Between 60 and 75 people turned out for the Phoenix march. Monday's event is part of a long-term plan.

"[T]ens of thousands of SEIU [Service Employees International Union] members and Fight for $15 workers will pledge to volunteer 40 hours of their time ahead of the 2018 elections in an unprecedented effort to engage Americans who have given up on the political process," explained organizers.

McDonald's employees and other fast-food workers launched the so-called Fight for $15 five years ago.

"We want $15/hour and a union. McDonald's is a billion-dollar corporation and they can afford to treat their workers with respect and dignity," Alejandra Gomez said Monday. "The community is paying attention and we’re holding accountable all these greedy CEOs that are keeping the money for themselves instead of distributing it to the workers that are the ones doing all of the hard labor and that have families and that deserve better wages.”

[RELATED: Phoenix fast-food workers join 'Fight for 15' (Nov. 10, 2015)]

“I think $15 an hour it’s a fair wage, especially because the economy is going up, the cost of living is going up. You have a lot of bills you have to pay for child care. So yes, it’s very fair," Zaimabou Green said. "These are necessities; these are not frivolous things. I can’t save at all, honestly.”

A minimum wage increase to $15 an hour would amount to approximately $31,000 annually for a 40 hour per week job.

Protesters point out that is still well below the median household income in Arizona, which according to the Department of Numbers and the most recent data available, was $51,492 in 2015. Looking at the entire country, that number jumped to $55,775.

As of Jan. 1, the minimum wage in Arizona is $10 an hour, which is $2.75 more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Thanks to a 2016 voter-passed initiative (Proposition 206), Arizona's minimum wage is slated to increase by 50 cents a year until it hits $12 in 2020. After that, it will increase to reflect the cost of living.

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