Why I’m Striking on May Day

When I was two years old, I traveled across the Mexican desert with my mother and siblings and crossed the border into Arizona on the way to Minnesota. Though my mother quieted our crying with assurances of a better life, she was terrified. Despite her fear, we pressed on. Life in Mexico was too hard, and my father had moved alone to Minneapolis months earlier in search of the American Dream.

Nearly two decades later, we proudly call Minneapolis home, working to realize the American Dream that we risked our lives for crossing the desert. Since age 17 I’ve worked at McDonald’s in various positions and am now paid $11 an hour as a crew trainer. College was not an option; I needed to support my parents and five siblings. We all contribute what we can.

The immigrant experience is defined by sacrifice for the sake of the next generation, but the Trump administration is painting a very different picture of us. The President’s policies are tearing hard-working families apart — families that, like mine, are just trying to contribute to the community in a meaningful way.

That’s why today, on May 1, I’m not going into work at McDonald’s. Instead, I’ll be striking for $15 an hour and union rights. And I’ll be standing alongside thousands of other immigrants coast to coast who are sending President Trump a clear message: every person who lives and works in this country deserves to have their basic rights respected.

As a member of the Fight for $15 — the group calling for $15 an hour and union rights — who also helps organize other workers, I’ve witnessed firsthand that going on strike works. When the Fight for $15 movement began in New York City in 2012 many people did not take it seriously. But workers kept walking off the job and marching in the streets. We showed our power in numbers, and now we have turned $15 an hour into the new standard in New York, California and Seattle. Home-care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon won $15-an-hour minimum wages. Huge companies, such as Facebook and Aetna, have raised pay to $15 an hour or higher. Just this week, 23 U.S. senators announced support for a new bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

In Minneapolis, Mayor Betsey Hodges has announced her support for raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, with the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting more than half of the city council would support the minimum wage proposal. And business owners, such as local coffee shop Common Roots Café, are taking matters into their own hands and raising the pay because it’s good for workers and the community.

Today the Fight for $15 has won wage hikes for 22 million workers across the country — including more than 10 million workers who are on their way to a $15-an-hour wage. The struggle has moved beyond the fast-food industry and now includes home care, childcare, university, retail, building service and other workers. Those who laughed in our faces four years ago are forced to admit they underestimated us.

We need to bring the same determination to the fight for immigrants’ rights. This country is made up of immigrants. We came here to work hard and contribute to our local economies. But to do that, we need the chance to succeed. Part of that means commonsense immigration reform that would reduce the exploitation of immigrant workers. It also means getting paid living wages and having the right to organize so that we can live in dignity.

Today, we’re taking a stand. We crossed deserts and risked everything for the American Dream and we refuse to be invisible.