By Máirtín Ó Muilleoir
A champion of the Stand Up Kansas City campaign which successfully led the Fight for $15 campaign in Kansas City, MO, will be honored at this year's Irish Labor Awards in New York on 13 September.
Bridget Hughes, 28, a shift manager at McDonald's in Kansas City, took part in civil disobedience protests alongside over 100 other low-wage workers in 2016 to win the right to a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union recognition.
Her stance was part of a nationwide campaign which has resulted in wage rises for 22 million workers since 2012.
"Today we have 64 million workers who make less than $15-an-hour," says Hughes.
"If we raise wages, it puts more money in workers' hands and that goes into the local economy. As the working class, we need to fight for vision for America. No matter if you're white, black or brown, gay or straight, immigrant or native-born, we must come together so that we can go up together as workers. This is the new American working class identity our country so desperately needs."
A mother-of-three whose husband Demetrius is a gas station attendant, Hughes has been working with McDonald's since the age of 16.
"Even with the two jobs, we struggle to afford our basics like utilities and food," says Hughes.
Hughes has a college degree but as the daughter of a low wage worker said she could only afford community college.
Employers saw her degree as “worthless” and she ended up $13,000 in debt.
Hughes has given countless interviews to national and international press on the Fight for $15. She told blogger Natalie Jill: "I’m a leader with the movement. It requires me to organize my co-workers - bring my co-workers together to make the movement stronger, to take on the issues we face on our jobs and make them better.
“I also am out there talking to the general public. I tell my story so that I reach the hearts and minds of people to help them to understand what workers go through and what it really means to make low wages. I have to tell my story so that people know that we are real people working hard and we are struggling to feed our families, even though we work full-time in the richest country in the world."
Sponsored by LIUNA and hosted by the Irish Echo newspaper, the annual Irish Labor awards in New York's Doubletree by Hilton on Lexington Avenue will be addressed by LIUNA General President Terry O'Sullivan and former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams T.D. Adams will be making his first visit to the U.S. in 2019 to be at the event.
Chief honoree on the evening will be Philadelphia native Sean McGarvey, President of NABTU, North America's Building Trade Unions.