Pete Buttigieg barged in on a protest led by McDonald’s workers in Charleston, South Carolina Monday. While some of the protesters appeared to be supporters, others were not at all pleased to see him, especially when he took the microphone and began to speak.
The protest was in support of workers’ unions and a $15.00 minimum wage. He joined in with the marchers on the front line and helped hold a banner that read “Racial Justice = Economic Justice.” The crowd was mostly African-American. A group of Black Voters Matter protesters began to chant, “Pete can’t be our President, where was $15 in South Bend?” when he began his remarks and continued until he cut it short after about a minute or two.
The protesters weren’t quite finished with Mayor Pete, though, and they followed him, along with reporters and the chanting continued. Buttigieg had to pick up the pace and almost broke into a sprint to get to a waiting SUV. Along the way, he slowed down briefly to answer a question from one of the protesters. A couple of women staffers helped keep the chanters back from Pete. The chanters continued to chase the vehicle as it pulled away.
Buttigieg began his remarks to the protesters by acknowledging one of them and reminding her that he marched with her in a demonstration last summer. He spoke to the crowd about his support of a $15.00 minimum wage, though as Mayor of South Bend he flip-flopped on the subject, as the protesters reminded him.
About 100 people rallied outside of a Charleston McDonalds calling for a $15 minimum wage, the day before Buttigieg and six other Democratic presidential hopefuls converge on the debate stage to make their final appeals to Palmetto State voters.
“No matter who you support, I support you, we support you, we stand together and we will not rest until one job is enough in the United States of America,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg quickly left the rally after his remarks, as members of the Black Youth Project 100 shouted questions at him, saying Buttigieg hasn’t always been for $15 an hour and has changed positions on the issue.
They also pointed to how wages for some South Bend city jobs are less than $15 an hour. In 2016, Buttigieg was able to get minimum wage for city employees raised to $10.10 an hour, but state law prevented local municipalities from instituting a higher mandated minimum wage for all businesses.
Mayor Pete talks down the booming U.S.economy on the campaign trail. The economy in South Carolina is improving.
“Our president says it’s a good economy,” he said at the restaurant on Spring Street in Charleston. “But it’s not a good economy until everybody can get ahead. That is what we believe in and that is why I’m standing here.”
South Carolina is one of five states without a minimum wage; it mirrors the federal rate at $7.25 an hour. The state also has the lowest percentage of union membership in the country.
“I don’t care who you’re supporting for president, you deserve $15 an hour,” Buttigeig said. “You deserve a union and we stand with you.”
Buttigieg is desperate for the support of black voters. Without them, he is poised to have a bad night on Saturday when the South Carolina primary votes are counted. Black Voters Matter, the group that led the protest against Buttigieg, is a nonprofit dedicated to increasing voter turnout in the African American community. Clearly, Pete is not their choice, despite his last-minute pandering. “It’s not authentic,” Brittany Smalls with Black Voters Matter said. “He can’t fix his own neighborhood.” Ouch.
Most of the campaigns sent surrogates or met with the Fight for $15 members in South Carolina, including Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders. Actress Susan Sarandon did some last-minute pandering for Bernie. Elizabeth Warren sent Rep. Ayanna Pressley who spent several days in the state for her. The protesters were happy for the crowd of reporters that Buttigieg’s appearance brought.
“I left my New York bubble” to see what was going on, Sarandon told a welcoming crowd, looking, in her embroidered leather jacket, like she really didn’t belong in a soggy field in Charleston.
Most of the workers weren’t fretting over who might have looked out of place or whom they suspect may be insincere. They just wanted, as Pressley put it, to be heard. And on Monday, it was Buttigieg’s presence that brought about two dozen national reporters, photographers, and television crews to the strike. After Buttigieg had left, the protest had died down, and the press had moved on, Taiwanna Milligan, a McDonald’s worker, leaned against a wall, so tired she could barely speak. She had introduced Buttigieg after telling her own story about trying to earn enough as a single mother to take care of her 12-year old son with sickle cell anemia. The candidates “are here and they’re running for president,” she said, “our voices are being heard.”
The protest was meant to get attention for their cause and they succeeded at that. South Carolina is the state with the lowest union participation in the nation. We’ll see how much that subject comes into Tuesday night’s Democrat debate.
The State Newspaper has endorsed Buttigieg. According to Real Clear Politics, he is in 4th place in polling.
As @thestate wrote in their endorsement, we “need a nominee who seeks to bring Americans together based on broad common ground — and not divide them along narrow interests.”
That’s how we will defeat Trump and finally meet the challenges of our time. https://t.co/FSCsQCUZq8
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) February 25, 2020