The Fight for $15: We Made History in 2016

“When the ‘Fight for $15’ movement to bring about a fifteen-dollar-an-hour minimum wage got started, four years ago, it seemed like a thoroughly quixotic quest…‘Fight for $15’ doesn’t seem so quixotic anymore.” – The New Yorker

As you can read in that quote — it’s astonishing how far our movement has come and what huge victories we’ve won. What started with strikes four years ago has blossomed into a national fight that we’re going to keep winning in each city and state in the country.

As 2016 comes to a close, here’s a look back at a historic year for the Fight for $15:

January: McDonald’s, already under investigation for avoiding €1.5 billion in taxes across Europe, is hit with an anti-trust complaint by a coalition of Italian consumer groups.

February: Workers in the Fight for $15 wage a series of strikes and protests at presidential debates across the country, forcing candidates on both sides of the aisle to address their urgent calls for $15 an hour and union rights.

March: A federal prosecutor in Brazil announces an investigation into McDonald’s for “fiscal and economic crimes.”

April: The governors of California and New York sign $15 minimum wages  on the same day putting more than 10 million workers—one-fifth of the U.S. workforce — on a path to $15 an hour. The same week, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center — the largest private employer in Pennsylvania— approves a $15 minimum for thousands of employees. There has never been a week in U.S. history when more workers in more places have won a common demand,” Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union, told the American Prospect. The Fight for $15 also becomes a major flashpoint in the Democratic primary, with the movement declared a “winner” of the final debate and Saturday Night Live riffing off of the candidates’ positions.

Strikes and protests by workers in the Fight for $15 hit a record 320 cities and fast-food workers in Birmingham are among the plaintiffs who file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of Alabama for blocking an increase in the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, from $7.25 an hour.

May: Workers flood McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., waging the biggest-ever series of strikes and protests to hit the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

June: Tens of thousands of workers in Washington D.C. become the latest to win $15 an hour. And Reuters reports McDonald’s plan to restructure its operation in Asia could pose risks.

July: The Democratic Party adopts a $15 minimum wage as part of its official convention platform. In response, Kansas City McDonald’s worker Terrence Wise says: “The Democratic Party’s move shows a growing understanding that $15 an hour is what American workers everywhere need to survive and support their families.”

Birmingham fast-food workers expand their federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of Alabama, adding a new charge that the bill signed by Gov. Bentley nullifying Birmingham’s $10.10 an hour minimum wage violated the Voting Rights Act.

August: We held our first-ever Fight for $15 national workers convention in Richmond, Va., vowing to champion $15 an hour and union rights through the 2016 election season and beyond! We wrapped it up with 8,000 workers marching on the monument to Robert E. Lee, backing the cruc connections between the fights for racial and economic justice.

September: Wage increases won by fast-food and other workers fighting for $15 an hour are widely credited for driving the median income up by 5.2 percent and helping to cut the U.S. poverty rate by 1.2 percent last year – the steepest decline since 1968, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Jason Furman, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, tells the Washington Post, “The fact that millions of workers have gotten a raise, as states have raised minimum wages, has definitely had an effect there.”

Thousands of underpaid workers in the Fight for $15 join hundreds of faith leaders in protests at 31 state capitols as part of a “Higher Ground Moral Day of Action” spearheaded by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. Noting the scale of the protests stretching from Austin to Albany and from Madison to Montgomery, ThinkProgress writes, “Two of the biggest movements in the U.S. just teamed up to demand economic and racial justice.”

October: McDonald’s workers file federal complaints charging the company with widespread sexual harassment. Also, for the first time ever, McDonald’s settles a class action suit for workers in its franchised stores, agreeing to pay nearly $4 million to settle charges of rampant wage theft.

November: All five minimum wage ballot initiatives pass on Election Day, with voters turning out to approve measures in four states and one city that raise pay from between $12 an hour to $15 an hour. In the four states, “yes” votes exceeded the vote totals for either of the major parties’ presidential candidates. This movement isn’t about parties! People need raises and folks across the country know that, regardless of political party.

Declaring they won’t back down to newly-elected politicians and newly-empowered corporate special interests who threaten an extremist agenda to move the country to the right, hundreds of workers are arrested during nationwide Fight for $15 strikes and protests. Baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and skycaps walk off their jobs at O’Hare and Logan airports and Uber drivers strike too. “It’s better to go to jail with a movement like this one than to stand down in the face of injustice,” the Rev. William Barber said on

December: The National Labor Prosecution Service in Brazil slams McDonald’s with a $30 million fine—the largest it’s ever imposed on a single company— for repeatedly and continuously breaking Brazilian labor law, flouting a consent decree the company entered into with authorities in 2013 to settle a suit charging rampant workplace violations.  

We had MASSIVE wins in 2016: Share now>>