Protests demanding a raise in the minimum wage have been spreading across the country, and the movement made its way to Dayton for the first time. On Thursday, union-backed groups reported events in over 100 cities; some involved worker walk-outs, but many were protests or demonstrations in front of fast food and retail outlets.
Outside the McDonald’s in downtown Dayton around lunchtime, a small crowd gathered near the road, rallying drivers to honk in support. The protesters’ complaint: Ohio’s minimum wage of $7.85 isn’t enough to actually live on.
“Most people are gonna spend their wages and not save them,” said Vernellia Randall, who isn’t a fast food worker herself but showed up to support. “If we want an economic stimulus, the best economic stimulus there is is to give working-class people good wages.”
The owner of the downtown McDonald’s wouldn’t give an interview, but a statement from corporate says the company believes it offers fair pay. And McDonald's isn’t the only target of these demonstrations: low-wage fast food and retail workers have staged multiple walkouts in larger cities this year, with varying demands including a request for a $15 minimum wage.
Adjusted for inflation, the current federal minimum wage is down three dollars from its peak in 1968. In a speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama called for a raise in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, which would bring it significantly closer to the 1968 level. A higher minimum wage has broad public support in polls, but little hope of making it through Congress.
Opponents of a higher minimum wage say it would damage the economy and slow down hiring, especially for small businesses.