15+ Black Leaders Urge Congress to Pass $15/hr Minimum Wage

Fight for $15 and a Union
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 24, 2021
Contact: Matt Lopez, matt.lopez@berlinrosen.com, 805-377-2950

As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, 15+ prominent Black leaders released statements Wednesday urging Congress to pass a $15/hr minimum wage as part of the package. Increasing the minimum wage to $15/hr would boost the wages of 32 million workers, including nearly a third of Black workers.

Rasheen Aldridge, Missouri State Representative and former Fight for $15 and a Union leader
“Creating a just economy and society that truly values Black lives requires structural change we haven’t yet achieved. It must start with Congress passing a $15 minimum wage, one of the best ways to cut into the racial wealth gap. I worked for a few pennies above minimum wage and know that nobody, anywhere in the country can survive on less than $15. On top of that, COVID-19 is devastating Black communities with high rates of infection and mortality. Higher pay is COVID relief for our communities and Congress must act now.”

Reverend William J. Barber II, Co-chair, Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival; President and Senior Lecturer, Repairers of the Breach
“Just as the Selma campaign became a symbol during the civil rights movement of the need for legislation to expand voting rights, the $15 an hour minimum wage proposal in Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan represents the possibility that our government can take decisive action to make racial justice real today. Whatever the debates about costs and the procedures needed to make it a reality in the budget-reconciliation process, we must be clear: the fight for a $15 minimum wage is our Selma. Workers have been organizing and striking to demand $15 and hour and union for the past eight years. The Fight for $15 has been clear all along that their demand for economic justice is also a demand for racial justice. The economic injustice that keeps working people struggling in poverty is inextricably linked to America’s original sin of racism. It has taken African-Americans 400 years to get from $0 to $7.25. We know we cannot wait any longer for a $15 an hour federal minimum wage.”

Kyle Bragg, President, 32BJ SEIU, the nation’s largest property service workers union
“Workers in New York City kept things going during the worst of the pandemic, cleaning, securing, feeding, and caring for our city. We’ve won a $15 minimum wage here, but we need a federal solution that lifts up all workers. It’s time for real COVID relief that includes $15 for all workers, so corporations like McDonald’s and Chipotle are on the hook to do more than pay lip service to Black Lives Matter while paying poverty wages.”

Ellora Derenoncourt, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics and the Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley
“Raising the minimum wage to $15 would increase wages for over 30% Black workers compared with 20% of white workers. In the 1960s, expansion of minimum wage coverage affected a similar proportion of Black workers, bringing their earnings closer to those of white workers while having minimal effects on employment. After 40 years of stagnant racial earnings gaps, it is once again time for bold policies to combat racial income inequality.”

Rebecca Dixon, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project
“Racist policies throughout our history have created a segregated labor market where Black women, more than anyone, are pushed into underpaid jobs. It’s no surprise, then, why Black workers and especially Black women are leading this inspiring Fight for $15 and a Union. The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would put more money into the pockets of Black workers and Black communities as a whole—and is an urgent vital step for true worker power, including through stronger union rights. Members of Congress must deliver this policy to advance the gender, economic, and racial justice our communities need.”

Alicia Garza, Founder and Principal, Black Futures Lab
“Bad public policy has attacked Black communities for generations, and the COVID 19 epidemic is yet another nail in the coffins we’re being buried alive in. Passing a relief package that includes a $15/hr minimum wage would raise the floor for millions of families in America, and is an important step to undo generations of rigged rules that hurt us all. We can’t afford to play it safe when so much is on the line — we must be courageous enough to build back bolder.”

Patrick Gaspard, former President, Open Society Foundations; former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa; union activist
“The energy, vitality and importance of frontline service and care workers has never been more clear than during the pandemic. For months, tens of millions of health care workers have been on the frontlines without sufficient personal protective equipment or paid sick time, even as the coronavirus has ravaged our country, especially in communities of color. These are workers who, in the best of times, lack a secure income, affordable health care, and benefits that would give them a bare modicum of stability. They are disproportionately people of color who must battle the effects of systemic racism. And for too long, society has ignored the needs of these workers and their families. It’s time for Congress to treat these workers as the essential workers they are by raising the minimum wage to $15. It’s a moral imperative.”

Darrick Hamilton, Professor of Economics and Urban Policy, The New School
“Cities like Kansas City, St. Louis and Birmingham have passed local minimum wage laws only to see them blocked by state governments — artificially holding down pay for largely Black and brown workforces. It is way past time to rid society of local Jim Crow tactics and have a federal standard that lifts up all workers.”

Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair, Wake Forest University and Co-Host, System Check
“Racial inequality is deeply embedded in our national fabric. So many of the deep challenges we face can seem intractable and overwhelming. Which is why the $15/ hour minimum wage is such an extraordinary tool. Raising the minimum wage reduces racialized income inequality. It works. It works swiftly. It works for the people who need it most. A $15 minimum wage rewards work, creates independence, empowers consumers, and supports families.”

Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP
“As many Americans face economic challenges, the fight to make the minimum wage $15 is a critical issue that will impact more than 30 million workers. If we are to move this nation toward the ideal of justice, we need to bring the minimum wage to $15 immediately.”

Maurice Mitchell, National Director, Working Families Party
“Raising the minimum wage to $15 in the Covid-19 relief package is good policy on economic and moral grounds. From the streets to the suites, we’ve seen declarations that Black Lives Matter. If Congress is serious about making that declaration real, raising the wage to $15 would immediately lift a third of Black workers out of poverty. A true American recovery leaves behind no worker and no household. The pandemic has taken a devastating economic and emotional toll on Black and other communities of color. While we can’t bring back those we’ve lost, we can honor their memory by making life better for those left behind.”

Steven Pitts, Associate Chair, University of California-Berkeley Labor Center
“Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 is essential to building a better society that has been ravaged by the pandemic and subsequent necessary step to curtail economic activity and has seen a massive transfer of income and wealth to the top 1% since the mid-1970s. The phased increase would eventually raise wages for a fifth of the country’s workforce and these workers are disproportionately workers of color. In addition, recent research from the University of California Berkeley has shown that the increase in the minimum wage in the 1960s led to a reduction in Black-white income inequality. This suggests an increase to $15 would have a similar impact today.”

Rashad Robinson, President, Color Of Change
“Since our country’s founding, those in power have subjected Black communities to the interwoven injustices of economic exploitation and systemic racism in order to build a rigged economy that only works for a few at the top. The centuries-long resistance to establishing a liveable wage is a key component of this atrocity, and it must end now. Black and low-wage workers cannot wait any longer for the federal government to instate a $15/hr minimum wage — especially as the pandemic continues to exacerbate the racial wealth gap and fuel inequities that have left so many Americans struggling to feed their families, pay the bills, and access affordable healthcare. All workers should be able to afford basic necessities without juggling multiple jobs, risking their lives, or being forced into predatory lending arrangements. Color Of Change and our millions of members call on Congress to pass a $15/hr minimum wage as part of President Biden’s pandemic relief package. Anything short of this immediate action is unacceptable.”

Bill Spriggs, Chief Economist, AFL-CIO
“Failing to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would be a racial justice disgrace, disproportionately targeting Black women. This would needlessly repeat the racially insensitive policy making patterns that created the Black income and hence wealth gap.”

April Verrett, President, SEIU 2015, California’s largest union
“Black women and our work have never received the respect we deserve by this country or its economy. This is especially true for Black women caregivers. For generations, Black women have done essential care and domestic work, raising other families’ children and caring for our elders. Black women are long overdue for a raise. We unapologetically stand in our power and vow that our loyalty will no longer be taken for granted. Increasing the minimum wage to $15/hr will begin to address generations of economic injustice by increasing the incomes of Black workers and reducing the racial income gap. It’s time for President Biden and Congress to pass a $15 minimum wage as part of the COVID relief. Black women and their families have waited long enough.”

Dorian Warren, President, Community Change and Co-Host, System Check
“Since the launch of the Fight for 15 and a Union campaign in 2012, Black workers have been at the forefront of this movement for increasing the minimum wage for all American workers by organizing–and winning–victories at the local and state level. Now is the time for the federal government to act boldly. The social science evidence is clear: a $15 minimum wage would lift wages for nearly a third of Black workers and address the racial wealth and income gaps. Workers have waited long enough for a raise while corporations like McDonald’s have only gotten richer paying poverty wages. Now is the time to make good on the struggles of Black workers to transform low-wage jobs into good jobs and deliver on racial and economic justice.”