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Group rallies in Detroit in support of $15 minimum wage

group-rallies-in-detroit-in-support-of-15-minimum-wage

At the beginning of his career, 28-year-old Davante Burnley worked long hours and earned around $ 11 an hour as a line chef. He juggled jobs in two restaurants to take care of his son.

It has taken its toll, he said.

“The stress of keeping these jobs to pay the bills and having my son practically raised by daycare and other family members resulted in my developing into an alcoholic lifestyle and having a nervous breakdown early in my career,” said Burnley, now Head Chef. “By the grace of God I’ve worked my way out, but it’s a difficult industry and I firmly believe that if I’m paid fairly in one place, and that’s the goal, in one place to be paid fairly, so we can raise our own children so we can pay our bills. “

Burnley was part of a small group that gathered outside Senator Gary Peters’s office in the McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit Monday to rally across the country to celebrate the Raise the Wage Act, which was introduced in President Joe Bidens $ 1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus aid is included in proposal. The rallies organized by One Fair Wage are part of the Campaign for the Poor’s weekly Morale Monday initiative.

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The wage increase bill, co-sponsored by Peters, would raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour by 2025 and end the minimum wage for tipped workers.

Efforts are facing an uphill battle with Senate Republicans, especially since West Virginia US Senator Joe Manchin recently voiced his opposition to the proposal. Congressional Impartial Budget Bureau estimates that raising the minimum wage to $ 15 by 2025 would raise wages for 17 million people and lift 900,000 out of poverty, but would also end 1.4 million jobs because employers would cut jobs in order to to offset higher labor costs.

About a dozen participants, clustered in cold weather on Monday, held signs and sang “One Fair Wage”.

“People, especially after this pandemic, are seeing the importance of these workers,” said Chantel Watkins, organizer at One Fair Wage. “Some people always want to argue and say that these people should get more education or something else to defend why people aren’t making this money, but they really, really do. Who, besides fast food workers and grocers, worked when the pandemic was at its worst? These people make over $ 15 an hour so we’re having a minimal fight right now. “

Lisa Ludwinski, owner of Sister Pie bakery, speaks out during a rally to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 in Detroit on Monday, February 22, 2021.

Watkins added that higher minimum wages are also required for tipped workers, as well as gig workers, people with disabilities and those 17 and under who work.

Among the supporters was Lisa Ludwinski, owner of Sister Pie Bakery on Kercheval Avenue in Detroit.

Ludwinski said she raised her employees’ wages from an average of $ 12 an hour to at least $ 15 an hour over the past year. She also removed the tip. There are 12 employees, including them. She said she was uncomfortable with people who depend on tips.

“I can’t say my business is successful unless every person who works in the business is thriving,” she said. “Workers can’t thrive, they can barely live on tips at the minimum wage. I fully support One Fair Wage and am ready to assist other restaurant and bakery owners as they make difficult decisions and rethink their business plan to make it work . I know we can do it. ”

Ludwinski said she could raise wages by not replacing workers who had left for other jobs, getting a loan from the federal paycheck protection program, and raising prices.

“We raised prices to match the increase we’d have to give employees to match what they’d done before with tips,” she said. “I think engaging customers in the conversation and letting them know exactly why our prices have changed. We haven’t had any real complaints about the price changes. … It shows me that people are willing to spend more, especially when they know employees are getting a living wage. “

Burnley, a resident of Bloomfield Hills, eventually started Exchange Detroit, a Detroit-based pop-up catering and private cooking company with a partner.

“That made us start our own business because we don’t get fair wages for other people,” he said. “It got to the point where we said we have to work for ourselves and give people back and pay.”

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Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

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Dusty Kennedy