Rallies in Newark and across the country Wednesday will make a case for paying service sector workers a wage of $15 per hour.

Minimum Wage
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

Analilia Mejia, executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, calls that amount a "family-sustaining" wage.

"Those very well-versed and educated on the issue of family economics know that $8.38, our minimum wage in New Jersey right now, is not enough," Mejia said.

The nationwide movement to raise the minimum wage began with efforts to organize low-wage employees, specifically fast food workers. However, Mejia calls attention to several other key jobs prevalent in the United States' extremely service-driven economy that are what she calls "poverty-driven," not family-sustaining. And another component of the movement is a call for unionizing workers at large corporations such as McDonald's and Wal-Mart, both of which have made some concessions recently on the issue.

"These are jobs that aren't going to be shipped out of our country," Mejia said. "These are jobs that people within a community work with pride, and they would like to be able to make enough to sustain their families, to spend it back in their local economies."

Mejia said it just makes basic sense for any of these workers -- a waitress, someone cleaning airplanes, people who care for children or the elderly -- to make decent, family-sustaining money.

Organizers expect several hundred daycare workers, food and airport service personnel, cab drivers and others to join in the rally at Newark City Hall, beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday. That will coincide with similar events in cities and on college campuses around the country.

Even as those demonstrations and protests create a very visible public presentation of this movement, there is another, less noticeable effort ongoing in the background. Organizers have been working to make a legal case to the National Labor Relations Board that fast food restaurants should be held accountable for working conditions. Hearings at the NLRB are scheduled to resume May 26 over alleged labor violations at McDonald's.

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