There’s a new wave of change coming, as Senator Bernie Sanders and Bishop William Barber II gear up for a multi-state rally demanding an hourly minimum wage of $17. These influential leaders are setting out on a mission to push for an economic reform that aims to bridge the wage gap and make a dent in the poverty statistics.
You might remember Barber as the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and the man behind the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School. Well, he’s teaming up with Sanders, Vermont’s independent Senator, to take a stand and address the urgent need to raise wages.
The duo is kicking off their tour in Durham, North Carolina, where Democratic Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, a veteran of Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, will join them. The rallying cry will echo from the Hayti Heritage Center on June 1, starting at 7:00 pm ET.
The next stop is the Henderson A. Johnson Memorial Gymnasium at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. On June 2, they’ll be joined by State Representative Justin Jones, who recently grabbed national headlines when the GOP tried to expel him for protesting for gun control. But Nashville’s Metropolitan Council had his back and promptly reinstated him. Now, he’s stepping up again, joining the fight for higher wages.
The rally caravan then rolls into Charleston, South Carolina, with an event hosted by the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 on June 3. State Rep. Wendell Gilliard is on board, teaming up with the South Carolina AFL-CIO, to lend their collective voice to the cause.
Sanders, a longstanding advocate for raising the U.S. minimum wage, teamed up with labor leaders earlier this month to announce this bold push for $17 per hour. The federal minimum wage has remained static at $7.25 since 2009, while the cost of living has spiraled upwards.
Sanders, who is also chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, didn’t mince words in his rallying cry, “There are too many Americans trying to survive and raise families on $9, $10, or $12 an hour. It cannot be done. This injustice must end. Low-income workers need a pay raise, and the American people want them to get that raise.”
Data seems to support this fight. The progressive think tank, Data for Progress, recently released a poll revealing that a whopping 76% of likely voters would back a $17 minimum wage. They also found that voters believed Americans needed to earn at least $26.20 per hour to afford basic necessities and maintain a decent quality of life.
Opponents of a wage increase often argue that it would negatively impact earnings and employment, but recent research from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests otherwise, pointing to positive outcomes from significant minimum wage increases.
While there are hurdles to clear, with the Republican-led House and some Democrats still on the fence, the fight is far from over. The struggle for a living wage is on, and with advocates like Sanders and Barber at the helm, this is a movement we should all keep our eyes on. Because this isn’t just about economics—it’s about human rights and dignity, and that’s a cause worth fighting for.