Earlier this year, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted out support for fast-food workers striking for better wages, writing that they “shouldn’t have to march in the streets for living wages.”
Two days earlier, Clinton had stopped at a Chipotle located in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio. The event was covered in obsessive detail, as the public learned that her order was a chicken burrito bowl with guacamole. But one thing didn’t get much attention: By stopping in at a Chipotle, Clinton was participating in the same low-wage economy she’d condemn only a couple days later.
It was certainly an oversight, but understandable in the context of the Fight for $15 movement, which has zeroed in on the struggles of fast-food workers—but not fast-casual workers—to make its point that the United States needs a minimum wage much higher than the current federal rate of $7.25 an hour.
A seemingly quixotic effort when it began in the wake of Occupy Wall Street, the Fight for $15 campaign has notched some significant victories since then. Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., raised their minimum wage this year, and some cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, have approved increases to $15 an hour, to be phased in over time. In New York, after political dysfunction derailed a recent effort to raise the minimum wage, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently ordered the fast-food industry to increase pay to $15 an hour in New York City by the end of 2018, with the rest of the state to follow before the end of 2021. Among Democratic presidential candidates, there isn’t a debate over whether the minimum wage should be raised—they all agree on that—and the only disagreements concern when this should happen and by how much.