By TIM ROWDEN
Charles Chestnutt has worked for McDonald’s for 13 years, but when he started talking to his co-workers about joining in the April 15 Fight for $15 event – a nationwide action by low-wage workers demanding $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation – McDonald’s management found a reason to suspend him from his job at the St. Ann location.
This isn’t Chestnutt’s first brush with McDonald’s management. A few years ago, when he was burned while working in the kitchen, his store manager, rather than sending him for medical care and filing an injury report, told him to put mustard on the wound.
Chestnutt knew better and used his break time to get some burn ointment from a drugstore across the street. He was never sent home, never got time off and has a nasty scar on his arm to this day.
Chestnutt shared his story with local activists at a “Fight for $15 Fish Fry” March 20 at Trinity Episcopal Church on N. Euclid in the Central West End.
“I need somebody to speak not only for me, but for everybody,” Chestnutt said. “If we had a union, it would be better.”
UNION MEMBERS URGED TO TURN OUT
Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council is calling on all union members to turn out for the April 15 rally, which will gather at 4:15 p.m. in Forest Park (further details will be released closer to the date).
“We are recommending that we get as many union folks there as we can,” White told delegates at the March 18 Labor Council meeting.
In recent weeks, working families have seen some major national victories, as retail chains like Walmart, Target, TJ Maxx and others have bowed to public pressure and announced wage increases for over half a million workers.
While their anti-union rhetoric is as strong as ever, public pressure campaigns like OUR Walmart and the Fight for $15 have produced concrete victories for working people.
“The last thing they want in a lot of these stores is to have their workers organize,” White said. “They’re trying to head it off by raising their wages.”
The Fight for $15 movement started in retail and fast food but has grown to include homecare providers, adjunct faculty, bank workers, airport workers and thousands of others.
“I have met with these workers and am inspired by their stories,” White said. “Like many of us, and many before us, they just want a chance to fight for a brighter future for them and for their children.”
4:15 ON 4/15
On April 15, thousands of working people, with union representation and without, will join in St. Louis and across the nation to demand the right to economic dignity and the right to form a union free of retaliation.
The St. Louis event will take place at 4:15 p.m. at a yet to be named university.
“I am proud that St. Louis has been chosen as one of the communities that will anchor this national mobilization,” White said in a recent email to union members. “I ask you, to join me in supporting St. Louis workers who are fighting for $15 and a union.”
Register your support and pledge to turn out for the April 15 event at april15.org, and stay up to date with the local movement at showme15.org, on Facebook at fb.com/showme15 and Twitter @Show_Me15.