Why we must fight for $15

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“Why are you involved in that?” This is the question that I have been asked numerous times directly after sharing with someone that I am a member of Show Me 15. For those of you who don’t know, Show Me 15 is an organization that was founded two and a half years ago by a group of fast-food workers who decided to stand up against economic, racial, and social injustice by organizing together to fight for a livable wage of $15 per hour and the right to unionize without retaliation.

Many of my peers, friends and family members cannot immediately understand why I, an upper-middle-class, white, SLU-educated woman, would join an organization focused on fast-food workers’ rights when I myself have never worked in the fast-food industry. It’s actually a valid question.

For me, the beauty of the Show Me 15 movement is its ability to unify tens of thousands of people from all over the world to work for justice by fighting for a livable wage and the right to unionize. Today, Show Me 15’s membership has expanded from fast-food workers to include home-care workers, early educators, adjunct professors and yes, even students.

Students have been and are continuing to join the fight for $15 and a union for several different reasons. First, as students, we must face the fact that when we graduate, we too are entering a low-wage economy. Many of my friends who have graduated from prestigious universities are currently working in coffee shops and restaurants to pay off their student debt because the career path they envisioned simply does not exist. Tuition prices are soaring, our student debt is increasing, we are entering a low-wage economy, and working for minimum wage is simply not a sustainable option for us.

Second, we realize it’s fundamentally wrong that hardworking people are regularly harassed and mistreated by their employers and that despite their hard work and long hours, they must live in poverty. Last week, at a Show Me 15 rally at the McDonald’s in Ferguson, I listened to testimony after testimony from fast-food workers, home-care workers, and adjunct professors alike about the appalling mistreatment, the deplorable working conditions, the inadequate pay and the minimal, if any, benefits of their employment. It is simply unacceptable.

As SLU students, we hear about and act upon the Jesuit mission of being “men and women for and with others” very frequently throughout our four years here. However, a lesserknown part of our mission statement is to dedicate ourselves to acquiring the “knowledge and skills required to transform society in the spirit of the Gospels.” Transforming society is an enormous and difficult task, yet as SLU students, we are challenged to become agents of social change and to engage with the larger community around us.

Show Me 15 offers us the perfect opportunity to live out our Jesuit mission by standing in solidarity with low-wage workers around the world and in our own city as we fight together for economic, racial and social justice.

Throughout history, college students have been on the front lines of social movements: the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war movement, the Feminist movement, etc. Our time is now. On April 15, thousands of low-wage workers and community allies from 190 cities across the U.S. and 40 countries worldwide are coming together for a national day of action to win this fight. We need you to join. The St. Louis rally will happen on Washington University’s campus on the corner of Forsyth Boulevard and N. Skinker Boulevard at 4:30 p.m. If you are interested in joining the movement for $15 and a union, meet at the clock tower at 4:00 p.m. on April 15, and transportation to the rally will be provided.

I will be standing in solidarity with all low-wage workers on April 15. Will you stand with us?