Huffington Post: Labor Secretary Tom Perez To Join The Fight For $15

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

From the Huffington Post

by Dave Jamieson

WASHINGTON -- Fast-food workers who are hoping to raise the minimum wage will find an ally in the Obama White House this week, with Labor Secretary Tom Perez traveling to Detroit on Tuesday to show his solidarity with the so-called Fight for $15.

"I'm proud to stand with the Fight for 15 movement," Perez told The Huffington Post. "And it really is a movement. It's for shared prosperity."

The union-backed Fight for $15 and its allies have roiled the service sector with intermittent strikes over the past three years, demanding a $15 wage floor and union recognition. The sight of large-scale protests has helped spur vast increases in the minimum wage in cities and states around the country, most recently in New York, where the state's wage board moved to set a $15 minimum for fast-food workers.

Perez' support of the workers shouldn't be read as an endorsement of a federal $15 wage floor -- the White House and Labor Department instead back a $12 proposal recently put forth by Congressional Democrats -- but the labor secretary said he views the Fight for $15 as a model for how workers can boost wages by banding together.

"People are increasingly understanding that they're taking it on the chin at work," Perez said. "If you battle your boss alone, it's a heck of a lot harder to succeed. But when you work in concert with fellow workers not just in your workplace but across sectors, that's how you succeed."

Perez plans to meet with Detroit workers from various fast-food chains as well as officials from the local branch of the AFL-CIO labor federation on Tuesday. Labor unions, and in particular the Service Employees International Union, have been instrumental in the fast-food strikes and local wage campaigns, pumping money and organizational support into them.

President Barack Obama has occasionally made a point of acknowledging the recent successes of fast-food workers in his economic speeches, but Perez' trip to Detroit may be the White House's clearest endorsement yet of the Fight for $15 campaign. The labor secretary's trip dovetails with a summit the White House will host in October around the concept of "worker voice," where officials plan to highlight the value of collective action in the workplace, including including ways that don't formally include labor unions and contracts.

That would presumably include the Fight for $15. Although backed by unions, the campaign so far has not unionized any fast-food restaurants. Instead, its success has come most explicitly through legislatures and the ballot box. While a $15 minimum wage seemed practically inconceivable not long ago, it is fast becoming the law in liberal cities such as Seattle and Los Angeles. Many states have rushed to pass more modest but still significant raises, with amajority of states now having a higher minimum wage than the federal level of $7.25.

Read the full article from the Huffington Post.