Fight for $15 Lowers Misses Goals, Lowers Expectations

Five years ago, when 200 New York City fast food workers first walked off the job for $15 an our and union rights, nobody gave us a shot. Since then, we’ve spread this movement to every corner of the country and beyond fast food,” said Steven Suffridge, a Fight for $15 organizer.

Target recently announced that it plans to raise the company-wide minimum hourly wage to $11 by next month and $15 by 2020. Suffridge continues, “We did what they said we couldn’t: we won. We won in the states, in the cities, with the big politicians, and with the big corporations.”

As a capitalist, I am all for someone getting paid as much as the market allows. Maybe $15 minimum wage is right. Maybe it isn’t. What I find interesting is how Fight for $15 takes credit for Target raising its starting wage to $15 nearly 10 years after the Fight for $15 campaign started. With normal adjustments for inflation, is $15 per hour in 2020 really a victory? Shouldn’t it be Fight for $20 in 2020?

As a management-side labor lawyer, I’m continually confounded how Fight for $15 celebrates achieving half of its goal. The other half – the increase the number of dues-paying union members – has failed miserably. Barely anyone in the fast food industry has joined a union since Fight for $15 launched.

So what we’re left with after peeling back this onion is:

  1. A union-funded worker center patting itself on the back because a company will raise its starting minimum wage to a level below the intent of Fight for $15 and
  2. No additional dues-paying members to offset the dues money being funneled into Fight for $15.

This is called diminished returned on lowered expectations. Not a successful, sustainable business model.

Matt Austin owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm based in Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can reach Matt by calling him at (614) 843-3041 or emailing him at