Rasheen Aldridge, a Jimmy John’s employee, said it has been easier to stand up for a living wage and the right to organize without management retaliation knowing that working St. Louisans have his back.
“We can’t do this by ourselves,” Aldridge said. “It was a lot easier for me to walk out of Jimmy John’s knowing you had my back, knowing you had all of our backs.”
Aldridge and McDonald’s worker Shermale Humphrey, both part of the fast food workers’ St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35 campaign, spoke to about 60 people Sept. 20 at the St. Louis Workers’ Rights Board (WRB) Breakfast at Maggie O’Brien’s.
Aldridge’s fast-food store was the first to go on strike in St. Louis back in May. Since then, hundreds of fast-food workers at dozens of stores have gone on strike in St. Louis, while thousands of fast-food workers in over 60 cities across the country have gone on strike.
NEXT TO NOTHING
Humphrey, with tears in her eyes, told the assembled WRB members “I help take care of my family. I barely make minimum wage. How am I supposed to help my family when I make next to nothing?”
Aldridge and Humphrey were introduced by the Rev. Martin Rafanan, community director of the St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35 campaign.
WRB members were asked to participate in the on-going Fast-Food Friday actions at area restaurants as part of the fast food workers’ struggle.
The most recent Fast-Food Friday action had dozens of activists pay at local restaurants with pennies, dramatically slowing down the drive-thru and check-out counters.
The St. Louis Workers’ Rights Board is a project of Missouri Jobs with Justice (JWJ), and is made up of prominent labor, community, faith, academic and political leaders who are committed to lending their voice to the struggles for social and economic justice and workers’ rights.
In addition to fast food workers, this year’s breakfast focused on the United Mine Workers’ of America’s (UMWA) struggle against Peabody Energy and Patriot Coal; the Bridgeton Landfill struggle to remove toxic waste from surrounding communities; and the struggle to expand Medicaid; and the recent wave of fast-food workers’ strikes for $15 an-hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.
Missouri JWJ executive director, Lara Granich, welcomed the group and praised them on all of their hard work.
“We couldn’t have done all of this without all of you,” Granich said. “However,” she added, “we have a lot more work to do as we build a powerful movement for worker justice.”
St. Louis WRB co-chair, Joan Suarez, agreed and added, "It is exciting to belong to a powerful organization where members don't just talk but 'walk the walk.' It is exhilarating to watch fast food workers step out for themselves! And it is important for them to know we have their backs!"
There are over 20 WRB’s across the country. Though they have no legal authority, WRB’s produce results through moral persuasion and public pressure.