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The 64-Million-Worker Question

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The ‘Fight for $15’ movement has mobilized millions of low-wage workers. But how many will vote, and for whom, in November? (All-Nite Images/Flickr)
The ‘Fight for $15’ movement has mobilized millions of low-wage workers. But how many will vote, and for whom, in November? (All-Nite Images/Flickr)
 By Andrea Sears - Producer, Contact
July 29, 2016

PHILADELPHIA - They're calling it the 64-million-worker question, a possible new bloc of voters that could have a big influence on this year's election. Low-wage workers have been energized by the "Fight for 15," the national movement demanding a big hike in the minimum wage. On Wednesday, the Working Families Party joined with the Service Employees International Union '32-B-J' at Philadelphia City Hall, for a discussion on how to engage this potentially huge voting bloc.

Peter Rickman, co-chair of Wisconsin's Working Families Party, predicts the campaign's primary focus on economic inequality will make a big difference.

"This is going to be a year where low-wage workers, working-class people with economic and social anxieties, are going to bring that set of demands for a real living wage to the ballot box," he said.

There are an estimated 64 million workers in the U.S. who make less than $15 an hour.

Rickman points out that, as in his home state, low-wage workers around the country include young people, college graduates, parents and seniors, all struggling to get by.

"Places like Wisconsin have been hit hard by the corporate-driven, free-trade model that has decimated the working-class manufacturing jobs that were union-represented and built the middle class," he added.

Like Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton now is voicing opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, a massive, multinational trade deal.

Rickman believes the drive to move the Democratic platform in a progressive direction will pay off in November.

"Not just because this movement is rising, not just because the demand is righteous, but because folks are very committed to engaging and mobilizing, and organizing those 64 million voters," he said.

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