Fight for $15 Is the Real Winner of Tonight's Debate

April 15th 2016

Lucy Tiven

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) sparred about policy and campaign finance during the Democratic debate on Thursday, but the clear winner wasn't either presidential hopeful it was the fight for a $15 minimum wage.

"I have said from the very beginning that I supported the fight for 15," Clinton said. This was a seemingly new position for Clinton, who proposed a $12 minimum wage at the federal level in November and has stated that $15 might be disproportionately high for rural areas and small cities, where the cost of living is lower.

Sanders was quick to lay into Clinton for changing her position. As tensions rose, moderator Wolf Blitzer intervened, telling the candidates, “If you’re both screaming at each other, the viewers won’t be able to hear either of you."

It's true that Clinton hasn't publicly supported the “Fight for $15” movement before tonight, but in February, SEIU, a union that has endorsed Clinton, distributed fliers in Nevada that suggested that she was in favor of a $15 minimum wage, according to Politico. Regardless of which primary contender came out on top, many viewers interpreted the candidates' remarks as a victory for the Democratic party.

New York's “Fight for $15” chapter issued a statement shortly after the exchange. On FiveThirtyEight, Ben Casselman reported:

“The Democratic candidates’ comments in the debate tonight over $15/hr shows that raising pay is a huge issue for voters in this election,” said Jorel Ware, who walked off his job at McDonald’s on Thursday as part of a union-organized strike. “By joining together and going on strike, we are literally changing the debate in this country on wages.”

On Thursday, protesters from a variety of industries from fast food to academia took to the streets in protest and asked for a $15 minimum wage. The demonstrations followed recent announcements of plans to raise the minimum wage in California, New York, and Pennsylvania. Recently, the city of Los Angeles voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.