Fight For $15 Rally At Broad & Arch

/ Filed under Column, Self

Yesterday afternoon, multiple mass movements scheduled rallies across Philadelphia. The Philaelphia Coalition for Real Justice declared a ‘Day of Rage’ and assembled at Broad and Girard. Temple activists, the Stadium Stompers, rallied at Cecil B. Moore to protest the construction of a $100 million sports stadium in the middle of North Philly. And I managed to make it out of work early enough to catch the end of a Fight For $15 assembly on Arch Street, where Verizon and fast food workers went on strike to demand a living wage. McDonald’s and Verizon employees across the country are on strike today.

A small stage was set up in front of the McDonald’s on the corner. Below, you can find audio recordings and transcripts of various speakers I was able to see at the Fight for $15 rally.

 

I didn’t catch this young man’s name because he was already speaking when I approached. As I switched on my recorder, he was decrying the university’s lack of mental health resources and the absolute failure of Temple University to respond adequately to campus rape and sexual assault.

…God forbid, come crunch time, you might not even see a therapist. Understand, they’ve been prioritizing the bottom line, football, over everything else, even other sports. Just last year they cut over ten programs to make room for football? [Crowd boos]

And let’s be real, I gotta be quick, but let’s be real: our football team is not going to be that good for that long. [Crowd cheers and laughs] It’s not! So I should say, one more time: Up with the community!

Down with the stadium!

Come on, there’s more of us here than that!

Up with the community! Down with the stadium!

Thank you and god bless!

Next, one of the organizers brought up the next speaker, who was joined by a translator. I have put my own translation in brackets where I thought appropriate, to more accurately represent his eloquent rhetoric.

Voy a leer un poco de la historia de mi vida y de mi comunidad.

I’m going to read a little bit about the story of my life and of my community.

Mi nombre es Gerardo Flores. Soy un inmigrante originalmente de Mexico con treinta años en esta pais. Soy un miembro de la parroquia Visitación y de Nuevo Movimiento Santuario. Vivo en Filadelfia, y soy indocumentado.

My name is Gerardo Flores. I’m an immigrant originally from Mexico [and I've been in this country for thirty years]. I’m a member of Visitation Church and the New Sanctuary Movement. I live in Philadelphia and I’m undocumented. [Crowd cheers]

El motivo de lo cual estoy aquí a te ustedes es porque como inmigrantes hemos sufrido también las injusticias de salario.

I’m here in front of you today because as immigrants we’ve also suffered poverty wages. [Lit. "the injustices of salary"]

Yo trabajé por veinte anos en restaurantes recibiendo un salario injusto, pero produciendo por este país. Por eso, yo viví en carne propia la necesidad de recibir un sueldo mejor en todas las ciudades.

I worked for twenty years in restaurants receiving an unjust salary while I was working for this country. That’s why in my own life I’ve experienced the need for a better salary [for people in every city]. [Crowd cheers]

Sufrimos doble explotación: salario miserable y también deportaciones de nuestras familias. Muchas veces los patrones no nos pagan y entonces nos amenazan con denunciarnos a inmigración si les mandamos nuestro dinero.

As immigrants we suffer a double exploitation: a miserable salary and also the deportations of our family. Many bosses don’t pay us and then they threaten us that they’ll call immigration and deport us if we demand our money. [Crowd boos. A person next to me shouts, "Bajo con la Migra!" which translates to "Down with Immigration Enforcement!"]

Lo grandioso que seria que comunidades de todos los países se unieran, se crearan puentes para lograr una unión, y hace poder de luchar contra los patrones que no nos pagan, que nos pagan tan miserables, y también los que quieren destruir nuestras familias con deportaciones.

It would be wonderful if communities of all countries united to create bridges and [joined together to create bridges to fight the bosses that don't pay us, that pay us miserable wages, and also those who wish to destroy our families with deportations.] [Crowd cheers]

Quince dolares la hora para todos! Si se puede!

Fifteen dollars an hour for everyone. Si se puede! [Yes we can!]

Si se puede! Si se puede! Si se puede!

A women with a Fight For $15 shirt was welcomed up onto the stage.

First I want to thank everybody for coming out today to stand with us. My name is Lisa Savage. I’m a home care worker. I’m also a single mom of two boys. My oldest is twenty six and my younger one is twelve. I’ve been a home care worker for six years. Prior to that, I worked for Verizon [Crowd boos] who are also on strike.

When I left Verizon I had to take all my retirement because my son at the time was twenty and he was shot by a stray bullet. When he was shot, he was paralyzed from the chest down, which means he’s a quadriplegic. And after he was shot, he asked me, Mom, will you take care of me? So I had no choice but to take care of my son. So I left my full paying job and became a home care worker.

The past six years have been rough for us. I don’t make $15 an hour. I don’t make $20-$25 an hour like I used to. Taking care of a man is hard for any woman — and that’s your child. I can’t survive — we can’t survive on what we have. Okay? I don’t want to get any government assistance. I work over ninety hours a week to take care of my son. Right now he’s at home with my mom taking care of him because I’m here. Because I support $15 an hour!

Like my sisters and brothers said, fifteen’s not enough, but it’s a start. Home care, health care, nursing homes, fast food workers, airport workers, security, all of us, laundry workers, we all deserve a better wage! We deserve a livable wage! I appreciate you people coming out here today. And I also appreciate the police protecting us. But I appreciate you especially for standing with us in this fight. The fight is not over. The fight continues! We need you to continue to support us. Fight for $15! Fight for $15! What do we want? Fifteen! When do we want it? Now!

Yes! Thank you!

A man in his thirties took the stage after Ms. Savage and kept her chant going.

What do we want? Fifteen! When do we want it? Now! My name is Douglas Hunter. I’m a union security officer here in Center City. I’ve been doing it for sixteen years. And I’m here to support this fight for fifteen, because we all deserve a good wage. All working class deserve a living wage. And $15 is a start. It’s not the solution, it’s a start. Many of us are working forty, sixty, eighty hours. Two jobs. Eight dollars ain’t doing it. Eight dollars ain’t cutting it.

We got families to support. We got children to feed. We got elders to take care of. We want to be respected by the people we work for. We demand to be respected by the people we work for. [Crowd cheers]

I’m in South Philly. All my life — I still live there now. I’ve seen a lot of development going on. I see a lot of pretty homes and buildings going on but I can’t afford to stay there. I can’t afford to live there. And that’s my neighborhood! I been there almost forty years.

I lace ‘em up, I come to work every night. I come to work every day. I shouldn’t be struggling as hard as I’m struggling. I support this fight for $15. People, keep fighting.

Whose streets?

Our streets!

Whose streets?

Our streets!

Let ‘em know, y’all. [Crowd cheers]

 

At this point the organizer who had been welcoming speakers up on stage took the mic again.

 

Thank you, thank you! So before we leave, because I know we have families to get to, I want everybody to repeat after me. Can y’all hear me? Y’all not tired yet, are y’all? [Crowd cheers] Y’all sure?

 

It is our duty to fight for our freedom!

It is our duty to win!

We have to love each other and respect each other!

We have nothing to lose but our chains!

 

It is our duty to fight for our freedom!

It is our duty to win!

We have to love each other and respect each other!

We have nothing to lose but our chains!

Collection of the Oakland Museum of California

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