Thousands of workers from across the country, including some from Michigan, converge on Richmond, Virginia, this weekend to ramp up the fight for better wages and call attention to what poverty is doing to people of color. It's the first-ever nationwide "Fight for Fifteen" convention, today and Saturday.
W.J. Rideout III is a pastor with All God's People's Church in Detroit and community activist for D15, a group representing low-wage workers in the Detroit area. He said a couple thousand workers from Michigan will be in Virginia to show their support for fair wages.
"We're just looking for fair equality and pay for all humankind," he said. "We want everyone to be able to survive, and I just don't think that people should get slave wages. It makes it hard; it's a struggle."
Organizers selected the capital of the old Confederacy for the convention to highlight what they say is the connection between racial and economic justice. Rideout said a march and rally will draw links between the crisis of today's falling wage floor and the effects it's having on working people of color.
Rideout explained fast-food and retail corporations make huge profits, but often don't pay their workers enough to cover such basic needs as food, health care, rent and transportation.
"Corporations will not give them 40 hours a week, and then pay them less than their fair share," he added. "To go along with it, they're taking back from them, they're causing wage theft and everything."
Organizers say they expect about 10,000 people from all 50 states at the march and rally, just a small representation of the 64 million workers nationally who make less than $15 an hour. But Rideout believes the "Fight for Fifteen" message is building momentum.
"As you look at California, New York, Seattle, places are accepting the $15 an hour wage," he said. "And my hope is that this will impact down in Virginia as well; and we will become a $15 an hour state there, and continue to grow this campaign."
Opponents of raising the minimum wage argue it will backfire on workers, leading to fewer jobs and hurting businesses.