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Fast Food Workers in New Hampshire to Protest Ahead of Republican Debate

February 5, 2016, 6:46 PM UTC
Fast Food Workers Across U.S. Rally For Increased Wages, Unionization
Photograph by Scott Olson—Getty Images

Since the 2016 presidential race got into full swing, the Fight For $15 movement has used presidential debates as opportunities to rally new support for its cause: a nationwide $15 minimum wage and the right to join a union.

Advocates for the movement will be at it again on Saturday ahead of the eighth Republican debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. Fast food employees there are expected to walk off the job Saturday morning, which will be the first time workers in New Hampshire have joined the nationwide call for a $15 minimum wage.

The Fight For $15 began more than three years ago, when fast food workers in New York City protested their pay. Since then, the organization has transformed labor activities from nickel-and-dime negotiations with a single employer into a social justice movement that transcends industry and geographic boundaries. And it is credited with helping prompt the passage of $15 minimum wage laws in large cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

The Fight for $15—a group backed by the Service Employees International Union—had previously coordinated protests in multiple cities. But since the 2016 campaign got underway, the movement’s supporters have flocked to debate sites. They protested at the November 10 Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee and on the same day as the Republican presidential debate in Iowa in January. They also demonstrated at the Democratic presidential contest in Charleston, South Carolina in January.

It’s hard to know what effect—if any—the movement’s debate demonstrations will have on the overall outcome of the election. Republican candidates are staunchly opposed to a $15 nationwide minimum wage. Ben Carson had at one point voiced support for upping the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and indexing it to inflation, but he later backpedaled from those remarks. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has advocated for a $12 minimum wage nationwide—the rate backed by President Barack Obama. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the only candidate to wholly endorse the $15 minimum wage and he has joined protesting workers in their demand for a raise in the past.