Guest blog post by Jack Seigel
I participated in the last event of a day of action organized by Fight for $15 and Jobs with Justice yesterday. The focus was economic justice, living wages, and putting people over profits. There was a strong union presence, plus many religious leaders and politicians.
A brave few decided they would engage in civil disobedience by sitting in the streets, arms linked in solidarity and prepared to be arrested for disrupting the flow of traffic. But disruption is the reason for events like this.
It is easy to get caught up in daily life, to worry about ourselves instead of others and in our daily routine, lose sight of the humanity of the service workers with whom we often interact. We forget that those people have families and struggles, and that their fair treatment is more important than our convenience.
As we assembled outside the union hall people passed out signs for living wages, reproductive rights, environmental rights, and labor rights; all important factors that play into the ability of working people to get by in life. The spectacle was impressive as people played music and danced in anticipation of the coming march. A few other marshals and I moved ahead of the group and blocked the road allowing the procession to cross.
Drivers were mad at first, but that transitioned to curiosity about what was going on as the mass crossed Hampton and went into the McDonalds parking lot. As we circled the building via the drive thru, we chanted:
“Show me 15!”
“Shut it down!”
“This is what democracy looks like!”
Most workers smiled and waved, appreciating that the exploitation of their labor was the reason for our protest. We lined up on the sidewalk as the chants continued.
The police arrived in force and local news stations covered the event. As the labor leaders led the chants, volunteers moved into the street and sat down together.
Eventually the police issued a warning that our action was illegal, that people risked arrest and that officers would use nonlethal force if necessary. Excessive force or violence was not necessary and the officers rounded up about 20 people. They then warned that they would re-open the street and arrest more people if necessary. Again, force was not needed.
At this point, people made speeches about living wages, social justice, the importance of community, and the history of labor unions becoming active in the struggle for economic justice. Speakers also mentioned how multiple faiths came together recognizing the morality implicit in demanding higher wages and better working conditions. It was refreshing to see such a large and diverse crowd recognizing we all share the burden in exposing oppression.
The protest reminded me of a Cornel West quote, “Justice is the expression of love in public.” Together, the power of working people will triumph.