Fight for $15 Protest at Gubernatorial Debate
Protesters demand affordable health care, $15 minimum wage.
Fast food, airport, and hospitality workers gathered with Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality (MASH) representatives late Friday afternoon outside of the UW-Milwaukee Helene Zelazo Center demanding affordable health care, a raised wage floor, and the removal of Gov. Scott Walker from office. The protest was planned to disrupt a Wisconsin gubernatorial debate between Tony Evers and Walker.
MASH has been working alongside fast-food employees to fight for a $15 minimum wage in a series of protests. Using the Fiserv Forum’s agreement to pay service-sector workers at least $15 an hour and to hire union-represented employees as a jumping-off point, protesters have demanded similar changes statewide. This latest protest put an emphasis on affordable health care – a response to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report that Gov. Scott Walker’s rejection of Medicaid expansion dollars cost the state $1.1 billion.
“Walker rejecting the Medicaid dollars was absolutely irresponsible for the people of Milwaukee. There’s a lot of people out here who don’t have health insurance who deserve it,” said Reyna Gengler, lead canvasser for MASH “I speak to a lot of people that tell me if they had health insurance, they could get their medication – they’re struggling between health insurance and rent.”
Protesters held signs that read “Walker: Hands off my health care” and “Vote for good union jobs, healthcare and higher pay.” A towering Scott Walker puppet, operated by two protesters, led the protesters on a march that circled around the block, traveling east down Kenwood Blvd. and bringing the march to a halt on the steps of the Helen Zelazo Center.
On the opposite side of street, a group of approximately 30 Walker supporters held signs that read “Students for Walker” and “Families 4 Walker.” As the march passed them, they erupted in a chant of “four more years.”
The protesters made one more lap around the route, but on the second time around, police closed off the sidewalk. Protesters instead spilled onto the street, eventually gathering in the median on Kenwood Blvd., bringing the two opposing groups within close quarters. Both sides remained civil and no arrests were made.
The protesters then gathered for one more round of chanting. The group then dispersed, reminding everyone present to vote on Nov. 6.
“It’s overwhelming – but with joy,” Gengler says of the protest turnout. “There’s a lot of power and people and when we come together there’s change.”
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