Demonstrators gathered to rally for a higher minimum wage in Center City Wednesday. Specifically, they called for Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.
Organized by Fight For Philly, Restaurant Opportunities Center Philadelphia, and several other groups, the theme of the demonstration was the anniversary, or birthday, of the minimum wage.
“This is the 21st anniversary of the last time the tipped minimum wage was raised,” said Andre Butler, one of the rally leaders. It also marks four years since the last federal minimum wage increase.
To underline this point, several of the protesters wore party hats. Some clutched balloons and one carried a large birthday card, wishing a happy 21st birthday to the $2.13 tipped minimum wage.
After some remarks at City Hall, the group marched to the Olive Garden on Chestnut Street for the “birthday party.”
“Olive Garden is one of the most notoriously low paid restaurants in the country,” Butler explained. “We hope that this restaurant will raise the wages of its workers.”
Inside the restaurant, demonstrators spoke, sang “Happy Birthday,” and chanted “shame, shame, shame!” at the chain restaurant. After being asked to leave, the group stood outside the front doors and continued chanting.
Many of the protesters were organizers and supporters, but some were workers who would be directly affected by a potential wage hike.
Crystal Fields, a server at a retirement home making minimum wage, eventually left the job because “$2.13 wasn’t cutting it.”
“I think we just need to stand together and make a bigger voice,” she added.
Back at City Hall, Butler addressed the crowd again.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” he said. “We’re in this for a living wage this time!”
“What do we want? A living wage!” chanted the demonstrators. “When do we want it? Now!”
After a few more chants, the crowd dispersed.