Fast food workers take demands for higher pay to McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting
Chicago – McDonald’s shareholders were greeted at the company’s annual conference May 23 by 100 workers and supporters calling for decent wages to support their families, and the right to form a union without retaliation.
Workers who participated in recent fast food and retail strikes in Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee and St. Louis converged outside the meeting on the McDonald’s corporate campus in Oak Brook, IL, welcoming shareholders with chants and rally speeches.
Among the protesters were five employees of the Ferguson McDonald’s – part of the local St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35 campaign – who drove in a minivan to Chicago on May 22 to join in the protest outside the shareholders’ meeting on May 23.
The Labor Tribune spoke with them before they left.
One of them was Shermale Humprey, 20, who has worked at the Ferguson McDonald’s for nearly three years and earns $7.45 an hour
“We all work hard. We all do difficult jobs and $7.35 is not enough; $7.45 is not enough,” Humphrey said. “We work hard for them. Why can’t they pay us what we work for?”
Workers point to McDonald’s $5.5 billion in annual profits and its CEO pay rate—roughly 500 times that of the average front-line worker—as indications that the fast food giant could easily afford to pay them a living wage of $15 an hour.
“We need higher pay,” Jeunina Jenkins, 20, said. “$7.35 is not enough.”
Ifama Kellin, 19, agreed.
“We’re fighting for a better living wage, a better economy,” Kellin said. “We’re standing together telling them that’s not right.”
Low-wage jobs have accounted for the bulk of new jobs added in the economic recovery, and fast food positions are among the fastest growing in St. Louis, accounting for some 36,000 jobs in the metro area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Fast food workers bring an estimated $1 billion a year into St. Louis’ economy, yet most earn Missouri’s minimum wage of $7.35, or just above it, and are forced to rely on public assistance programs to provide for their families and get healthcare for their children.
“This is not a poor organization,” the Rev. Dr. Martin Rafanan, a Lutheran minister, co-chair, St Louis Workers Rights Board of Missouri Jobs with Justice and director of the St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35 campaign, said of McDonald’s. “This is an organization that is making profits hand over fist. So my question is why has their pay to workers remained essentially flat? Their workers have not seen any growth in their pay, whereas their CEO is getting substantial increases in pay and other compensation. Obviously, their management is making a lot of money. Why can’t these workers participate in what they have certainly made a very effective and profitable industry? I think anyone would say from a fairness standpoint that they deserve to be rewarded for success.”