Secretary Julián Castro marched with workers from Chicago, Iowa, and St. Louis in Bettendorf to demand democratic presidential candidates stand with them in demanding $15 an hour and Unions For All before the AARP Des Moines Register 2020 Presidential Candidate Forum held at the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf, Iowa Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Kevin Schmidt/Quad-City Times

BETTENDORF --- Hourly wage workers marched down State Street in Bettendorf Tuesday, many holding banners, calling out their rallying cry:“We work! We sweat! Put $15 on our check!”

They were part of the national “Fight for $15" campaign, and were heading to the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center, Bettendorf, where three Democratic presidential candidates appeared at a forum sponsored by AARP and The Des Moines Register. It was a continuation of a march that began Monday in Des Moines, that included McDonald's cooks and cashiers, presidential candidate Julián Castro and SEIU Local 1199 President Cathy Glasson and Iowa home care workers.

Many wore red shirts reading “$15 and a union.”

Speakers included Patricia Evans, longtime Illinois Help at Home health-care aide. "In Chicago, we say ‘When we fight, we win,’” she said. “You got to hold politicians accountable.”

Candidates Castro and Kirsten Gillibrand came outside to support the workers. Kamala Harris, also at the forum, did not.

Castro told the crowd he supported their cause.

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Over the last 40 years, less has been asked from people and corporations at the very top, but more and more has been expected from the middle class and working poor, Castro said. “You and your families pay more in federal taxes than Amazon.”

“We want to make sure you have $15 so you can provide for your family and pay the rent,” he said.

The march marks the third demonstration in Iowa in three months. In May, presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio marched with strikers in Des Moines and joined Castro in vowing he and his staff would not eat at McDonald’s until the company respected workers right to form a union, paid workers $15 and addressed sexual harassment in its stores. In June, Bernie Sanders took the bullhorn outside of a Cedar Rapids McDonald’s and marched alongside workers chanting, “We work, we sweat, put $15 on our check.”

This week's action comes the same week the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

AARP/Des Moines Register forums continue Wednesday in Cedar Rapids, on Friday in Sioux City and Saturday in Council Bluffs.

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