Why you should care that 2 states are raising the minimum wage to $15.

Wages are on the upswing, and we've got fast food workers to thank.

In November 2012, a group of New York City fast food workers walked off the job. They wanted higher wages, the right to form a union, and better working conditions. Many laughed.

They wanted $15 an hour. This was more than twice the city's then-minimum wage of $7.25, and such a demand seemed ridiculous at the time.

Fast forward to today, and the movement they helped start just scored a couple major victories.


A striking worker protests outside a Wendy's on Nov. 29, 2012. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Over the course of the next three years, New York City's minimum wage will jump to $15 an hour, and it's thanks in large part to the Fight for 15 movement.

The movement, which really took off following the New York protests, has been relentless in its work. A coalition of low-paid workers, unions, and supporters has forced the issue with protests across the country, turning what seemed like the impossible into reality.

Last year, Seattle became the first major city to announce a $15 minimum wage, followed by Los Angeles and San Francisco. Yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown announced plans to expand that wage to the whole state, followed just hours later by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's announcement.

Low wage workers and supporters protest for a $15 an hour minimum wage on November 10, 2015. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Why is $15 an hour such a big deal? Because in most cases, it's above what's called the "living wage."

A living wage is what an individual has to make in order to cover basic expenses like food, housing, transportation, and medical care. In Manhattan, for example, the living wage is $14.30 an hour.

By raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, workers will finally be able to afford to live in the same area they work. This is a huge deal.

Obviously, the living wage varies across the country, but the point is this: Nobody is getting rich off $15 an hour. These are the wages people need to be paid to survive in our world.


People protest in front of a McDonald's on Sept. 10, 2015 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

In response to the movement to increase the minimum wage, MIT developed a "living wage calculator." It's pretty cool.

You can visit their website, type in what county and state you live in, and find out in just moments what they've calculated to be the living wage in your area. The number might surprise you!


Protesters stand outside a McDonald's in Miami, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

If we believe in the American dream, upward mobility, or whatever you'd like to call it — we need to believe in a living wage for all.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that people who begin work at the low end of the income scale have a hard time moving up in the world. When people working full-time can't afford basic necessities like food and shelter, there's no amount of hard work that can help. Working will always keep them broke because they don't have money to save up.

If we want to believe the world is a fair and just place and if we want to believe that all it takes is a bit of hard work to move up in the world, then we need to believe in a living wage.

And, finally, for these cities and states taking action, we're getting there.

Protesters stand outside a McDonald's in Miami, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

And just to think that less than three years ago all of this seemed impossible. Looks like we've got some fast food employees to thank.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

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Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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