The crowd of workers gathered outside the Denver City and County Building chanted, “Aqui estamos, y no los vamos.” Translation: “Here we are, and we’re not going anywhere.”
Just as the sun was going down, the pool of Fight for $15 supporters who turned out for the evening’s action was considerably larger than the crowd gathered for early morning demonstrations outside of a McDonald’s on Colorado Blvd.
Yesterday marked one year from the upcoming presidential election, and the demonstrators were out to prove labor is a major voting block.
The Fight for $15 campaign brought restaurant employees, healthcare workers and other laborers in more than 200 cities across the country into the streets to demand higher wages and the right to form unions.
The Service Employees International Union has been funding the Fight for $15 campaign, and the union’s Local 105 was a force at last night’s rally. Members handed out signs and riled up the crowd.
“It’s statistically known that unions provide higher wages, benefits with health care and in general, provide an all around better life for the American public,” Becky Torres, of SEIU Local 105, said to The Colorado Independent.
Local activists and members of the Denver-based band the Flobots Jamie Laurie and Stephen Brackett led the crowd in chants as a vibrant brass band backed up their pro-labor message.
From a flatbed truck parked on the street, community leaders like Rev. Dawn Riley Duval joined fast food workers like Aubrey Anderson in delivering fervent speeches.
Anderson is an 18-year-old employee of McDonald’s, working to help support her large family, including her mother who deals with a disability. Anderson grew up living in tiny motel rooms with six other family members as her father tried to eke out a living.
“We slept on the floor. We slept in chairs. We slept on air mattresses,” said Anderson, as the crowd cheered for her. “It was not right. It was not fair. I believe that my family should be able to pay our bills to help take care of my mother and still have money to put away in our bank accounts at the end of the week.”
The marchers eventually took peacefully to the streets, led down Bannock by the flatbed truck. After half a block, police forced the protestors onto the sidewalk where they kept moving toward the Capitol. There, the group gathered on the steps to hear more from community members and groups including 9to5 Colorado, which advocates for working women.
“Historically, community groups and unions have been the only folks fighting — keeping black folks from exploitative labor practices, making sure that the playing field is equal, making sure that we’re all level out here, getting paid a living wage, not just a fair wage or a minimum wage,” Emery said to the attentive crowd. “That’s why we’re in the Fight for $15 — we know the necessity and value of affirming black lives.”
The rally wound down as peacefully but energetically as it began, with the slimmed down crowd dispersing close to 6:30 p.m.
Photos by Bree Davies.