Tampa progressives met to herald a major milestone for the Fight for 15 movement, which made a major breakthrough Thursday in New York, with Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing a proposal for a state-wide minimum wage of $15/hr.
If passed, New York would become the first to have a statewide $15 minimum wage after victories for the movement in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Notably, Cuomo made this announcement alongside Vice President Joe Biden, a possible presidential candidate, cementing the Fight for 15 into the mainstream consciousness and foreshadowing what could potentially become a defining issue in the 2016 presidential election.
Almost at the same time that Cuomo made his announcement, local members of the Fight for 15 gathered outside of the Tampa City Hall, holding a press conference in support of the movement's success in New York and to emphasize their view that a similar victory in Florida is achievable.
“We just heard about that victory that happened in New York, that can happen here,” said activist Bleu Rainer, as he announced the events unfolding in New York. “With Governor Andrew Cuomo and other politicians standing with people in their communities in solidarity with our fight, if they can do it there, we can do it here.”
With support spreading among high-level elected officials, it's hard to deny the message is gaining traction.
While Rick Scott as an ally may be an unlikely outcome, there was a noticeable presence by local elected officials and politicians with City Councilman Guido Maniscalco and Hillsborough County Commission candidate Pat Kemp taking the opportunity to speak.
“Something happened in this country over forty years ago, and that is that the cost of living has gone up but wages haven't gone up,” said Maniscalco. “Hard working Americans, like the folks that are here with me today, they just want a decent living wage. They're making that sacrifice, they want to raise their children, they want to raise their family, and they want to give them the best. They're doing their part, they're working hard and they just want a better opportunity.”
Also receiving praise for their support of the Fight for 15 movement was Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who spoke at the the movemnent's day of action back in April, but the compliments weren't without caveats, particularly considering the Mayor's recent actions concerning his establishment of a civilian review board on police misconduct.
“I'd like to thank Mayor Buckhorn, who stood with us fast food workers on these strike lines,” said Rainer. “He stood with us for fifteen. We urge him to continue to stand with and support working class people who are fighting for fair wages and as we also fight for fair treatment in our communities. I don't want to go to work and get treated unfairly then go home and get treated unfairly in my community. That's not right.”
Eugene Harrison of Tampa for Justice explained the parallels of the two efforts.
“The fight for fifteen and the fight for a citizen's review board are about the same thing: accountability for our police and freedom from discrimination," he said. "We the people deserve to live in a community and work in a place where employers and police treat us with respect. We work hard we deserve to be paid fairly. Bob Buckhorn, our Mayor, is acting a little bit like McDonald's to the people in our community. They treat us like we're bystanders.”
As the press conference dispersed, further evidence of the galvanizing nature of events in New York appeared as the activists took the show to a Kennedy Boulevard McDonald's to recruit potential new members and continue to spread the message of the Fight for 15.