Of all the people who turned out in support of the “Fight for 15” rallies last April, 33-year-old McDonald’s worker Jorel Ware from Brooklyn was most surprised about the ministers.

In more than 230 cities across the country, an estimated 60,000 fast food workers had walked off their jobs, demanding that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour. It was the largest protest of its kind in American history, part of a much longer campaign spearheaded by the Service Employees Inter­national Union, which had already helped pass laws for livable minimum wages in Seattle, New York, and San Francisco. In the month after the April demonstrations, SEIU helped Los Angeles join that list.

But according to Ware, it was the presence of a handful of priests, rabbis, ministers, and imams that had proved most important in the minimum-wage campaign. Only the support of religious leaders, Ware claimed, “makes people understand that this is a big thing.” Without them, he said, “We really can’t survive.”