Low-wage workers and local leaders are continuing to push for an increase to the minimum wage in Arkansas.
Local protests for a $15 an hour minimum wage were first seen in late 2014 outside fast food restaurants in central Arkansas. Those efforts were part of a nationwide movement known as Fight for 15.
In this election year organizers took their protest to the steps of the state Capitol. Jay Harris, a member of Fight for 15, said there are many reasons for supporting an increased minimum wage.
“$8.50 an hour is not enough money to retire on,” he told the crowd. “$8.50 an hour produces mass incarceration. Know why? Because the average woman that’s making $8.50 an hour, she’s a single mother that would make up the community of low wages and that’s where you (see) people come from mass incarceration from.”
The local protestors are supported by the national movement that began in 2012 and has attracted well-known organizations, like Black Lives Matter, to its cause. It’s expanded its focus from fast food workers to include retail employees, adjunct professors, and health care workers.
Speaking to the group of over 30 protestors, Alan Hughes, president of the Arkansas AFL-CIO, said the state minimum wage is not enough. "It takes that $15 [per hour] or more to raise a family and I believe every one of you deserve this and I want you to know that organized labor is behind you all the way.”
According to organizers of the movement, Fight for 15, has spread to over 300 cities and six continents. They have also claimed successes in improved wages and worker’s rights in California, New York, and Pennsylvania.