Low wage workers from across the city gathered outside the Liberty Bell for a rally to raise the minimum wage. Fight for Philly, Restaurant Opportunity Center of Philadelphia (ROC) and a host of other community, faith and labor groups came together to organize this demonstration as part of a National Day of Action to Raise the Minimum Wage.
The minimum wage has remained stagnant for 3 years and workers are now calling on our elected officials to raise the current minimum wage. The federal minimum wage stands at $7.25, and yesterday marked the third year since it was last raised. The federal tipped minimum wage continues to be atrociously low at $2.13 an hour, and has not gone up in more than twenty years.
Victoria Burton, a waitress and member of ROC kicked off the rally as she spoke in front of a large crowd of 200, “I have worked for cash tips for over 18 years, making 20 to 60 dollars a shift…I served food to families for a living, but had to use food stamps to help feed myself and my family.”
Another speaker, Charles Stecker, a security officer, spoke about his woes, growing up in poverty and as an adult, trying to take care of his family on minimum wage. He urged our elected officials to raise the minimum wage and narrow the income inequality gap between the 1% and 99%.
After Victoria’s and Charles energizing speech, the march roared up Market Street towards the Gallery Mall East, holding signs that read “99% need a raise!” and “$7.25 is not enough”. Protestors took a minor detour into the Gallery Mall, while chanting “We can’t survive on $7.25!” catching the attention of many mall employees. The march concluded in front of the Burlington Coat factory on 11th and market.
Mike Stuart, an Assistant Manager with Guitar Center, explained “I‘ve been at Guitar Center for 5 years now and I have not gotten one raise. I once asked for a raise, and they told me “We don’t do that kind of thing here.” So, here I am, an assistant manager getting paid 7.25.”
Andre Butler of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project wrapped up the rally by speaking about his trials and tribulations as a low wage caterer. He recalled working in hot and humid weather while being dressed in all black. He explained how difficult it was to work in such difficult conditions, while earning minimum wage.
Additionally, elected officials, labor leaders, pastors and other low wage workers also spoke out about the need to raise the wage.
The bottom line is that people who work for a living put their money right back into our economy. $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage, amounts to only $15,080 a year. That’s more than $7,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of four. People who work for a living should be able to support their families and live off their wages.