By Joe Prezioso and Seth Daniel
A few thousand individuals from around the state – with a strong contingent from Chelsea – gathered on Beacon Hill at the State house this past Friday, April 15, to take part in in a protest to fight for a $15 minimum wage across the state.
The protesters then marched to McCormick & Schmick’s and McDonalds, two of the places they consider to be the worst “purveyors of poverty wages and poor working conditions” according to their press release.
Gladys Vega and member and staff of the Chelsea Collaborative brought a bus of activists to the rally, which started at the State House and marched to Downtown Crossing. Several state and local officials came together, as well as thousands of workers calling for the raise in minimum wage.
“What do we want?” yelled Vega into a bullhorn.
“$15,” yelled the crowd of thousands.
“When do we want it?” she continued.
“Now,” they yelled.
The minimum wage in Massachusetts is currently $10, having gone up on Jan. 1. It is on track by state law to continue raising, going to $11 on Jan. 1, 2017.
However, the State of California just recently passed a $15 minimum wage law, and New York state is expected to follow very soon. That has caused pressure to mount in Massachusetts for an accelerated increase to follow California and New York among the ‘Fight for $15’ movement that has been very active in the state for several years.
Joining workers from McDonald’s were workers from McCormick and Schmicks, including one Chelsea woman who said she was harassed at work. As a minimum wage worker, she said she was fired from the job when she complained about the harassment.
In addition, several airport workers testified in front of the State House, saying they were contractors from a private company that contracted with airlines.
They said they were the front lines for passengers arriving and departing from the airport and deserved a higher wage.
Saritin Rizzuto, a Chelsea business leader and candidate for the state representative in Lynn and Saugus, said she supported the effort.
“I’m happy to be here and support in any way I can,” she said. “I’m not a typical politician. I don’t consider myself a politician. I think I am a person of the people and for the people, which explains why I am here supporting this cause and supporting the people for their fare wage. I worked many minimum wage jobs and my children actually work minimum wage jobs now. They are 23 and 25. So I am here for them and all these people.”
State Sen. Dan Wolf, who owns Cape Air, said his company has included $15 as its minimum wage and he called on all airport related businesses to do the same.
“We are the richest country in the history of the world,” he said. “People who are able to work full time should be able to support a family with dignity. In my other life, I am the CEO of an airline. So when I stand down there and hear the liars up there, thats me, that the greedy CEO’s of the airlines, and thats me, I think I have some serious stuff to get done. My airline has pledged to get to $15 an hour.”
Lynn City Councillor Brian LaPierre met up with the protesters at the state house and both marched and chanted with them as they fought for $15 an hour.
“We have a full bus from Lynn, there’s about 50, but they are coming from across the state,” he said. “There are over 20 busses, probably a couple thousand folks in total. The goal of this event and rally is for 3,000 individuals to be here fighting for $15 an hour.”
In Lynn, he said it’s basically the fast food industry, and that’s an issue across the state.
“It is like your Dunkin Donuts, your Burger Kings, McDonald’s, Wendy’s variety,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of the big box in effect because we don’t have big chains like Home Depot and Target and such, but the fast food area is really where Lynn could use a boost in its wages.”