Approximately 100 students and community members rallied on Library Mall Wednesday with signs that read “Students for $15,” “Poverty Wage Jobs Hold Madison Back” and “Who made your burger? Who made your shirt?”
The demonstration was part of the national Fight for $15 strike to raise minimum wage and increase unionization.
Amy Perez, a first-generation Madison College student, is the only female in her family who is single and without kids. She said she works 35 hours per week to support herself and hopes to transfer to the UW-Madison College of Engineering, despite having trouble maintaining the necessary GPA.
“My parents can’t afford to pay my living expenses or tuition at all,” Perez said. “Working this much is really messing up my GPA and it is going to take me longer to finish college.”
She added balancing school and work makes it difficult to focus on anything else, including her health.
“I don’t even remember the last time I went to the doctor for a regular check up or vaccines, I don’t have the time between school and work to do that,” Perez said.
Immigrant Workers Union member Claudia Gonzalez said she quit her job as a nanny because the $8 per hour wage was not enough for her to afford rent, and she believes it is possible to get better wages and benefits.
“We deserve health insurance, we deserve dental, we deserve $15 an hour. United we can do this–Si se puede,” Gonzalez said over a loudspeaker.
Ryan Grunwald, vice chairman of College Republicans, said raising minimum wage on a federal level could lead to a surplus of labor and increase unemployment, but it could be possible on a smaller scale.
“If states or localities want to consider that, that’s up to them. The idea of the glass doors of democracy allows us to test, to see what works and what doesn’t,” Grunwald said. “In our area, I would advise against such policy.”
Luke Gangler, a UW-Madison student and member of the Student Labor Action Coalition, said that one of Fight for $15’s main goals is to promote solidarity amongst workers.
“The connection between the fight of all workers is clear, and we have to stand behind all workers. Divided we are not going to win; it is when we are united that we can,” Gangler said.
Following the rally at Library Mall, demonstrators boarded a bus for Milwaukee, where the protests continued.