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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The push for a $15 minimum hourly wage returns to Kansas City Monday as fast food workers plan to walk off the job in protest. The move is part of the nationwide Fight For $15 movement.
Monday's rally is scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers strike in Memphis. On February 12, 1968, workers marched through Memphis with signs reading "I am a man." In cities across the country Monday, fast food workers and cashiers will rally with their own versions of those signs.
"It may not be as bad as it was 50 years ago, obviously. But we do face the same things on the job. We are discriminated against, we don't have the money to be able to support our families, we're barely scraping by," explained Bridget Hughes, a Burger King employee who helps spearhead the movement in Kansas City.
Labor, faith, civic and community leaders will launch the protest in Kansas City at noon at the McDonald's restaurant located at 1200 Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, the road's namesake, supports a $15 minimum wage.
Voters in Kansas City approved raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2022, but Missouri state law prevents cities from raising the minimum wage above the state's $7.70.
Organizers argued laws limiting the minimum wage have a negative impact on minority workers. A 2016 study showed women, African-Americans and Latinos are the largest groups earning less than $15 an hour across the country.
"The reality is there are 64 million Americans who make less than $15 an hour. That's fast food, home healthcare, airport workers. It's all across the board. So simply going and finding another job is not going to help the problem for the other 64 million Americans who make poverty wages," Hughes said.
Aside from an increased minimum wage, protestors want fast food workers to have the right to unionize and bargain for better benefits and pay.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
The American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank, said there are less obvious downsides to raising the minimum wage. It argued in 2015 that raising the minimum wage will result in fewer hours for employees and will reduce the number of opportunities for workers without specialized skills.