By TIM ROWDEN
Earlier this month, fast-food workers who are part of the growing Fight for $15 movement hit the streets April 1 to protest McDonald’s announcement that the company is increasing pay slightly for some workers at its corporate stores – a fraction of its workforce – while leaving workers at its franchise locations grossly underpaid.
Workers with Show Me $15 gathered outside the McDonald’s at 4006 Lindell Blvd. April 1 to protest the hypocrisy of McDonald’s so-called raise.
McDonald’s said it would start paying employees at its company-owned restaurants at least $1 an hour more than the local minimum wage on July 1. That means the changes will apply to only 10 percent of McDonald’s 14,000 restaurants. Ninety percent of McDonald’s restaurants are owned by franchisees.
Even with the $1 raise, nearly everyone who works at McDonald’s will still get paid under $10 an hour, and 1.6 million McDonald’s workers will get no raise at all from the $5.6 billion company.
Workers criticized the announcement – issued one day after workers announced they would strike in 200 cities on April 15 – as publicity stunt and demanded McDonald’s raise wages to $15 an hour for all workers and respect their right to form a union without retaliation so hard-working cooks and cashiers can support their families.
Justin “Skillet” Johnson, 21, who makes $7.50 an hour working the grill, cash register and grounds keeping at a McDonalds in south St. Louis City said he has to choose every month between buying groceries or paying his rent, phone bill or electric bill.
Johnson has a 1-year-old daughter and recently took second low-wage job as a home healthcare worker to try to make ends meet. He has worked at McDonald’s for nearly four years, and has yet to get a raise.
“I won’t be getting a raise because I’m at a franchise store,” Johnson said. “I know for a fact that I’m a respectful, responsible, dependable employee. I deserve $15 and the right to form a union.”
‘WE’RE STANDING UP’
Johnson also had a message for the movement’s critics, those who argue that fast food jobs are meant as starter jobs for young people, and that protesters should “get a job.”
“We’ve got one,” Johnson said. “We’re standing up. You should be proud of us for standing up. We’ve got single mothers and single fathers, families of two and three and four.
“It’s hot working those grills,” he said. “It’s tough working with the customers. And we do that every day.”
TOUGH ALL OVER
Brianna Price, 22, has worked at the Wendy’s restaurant in Rock Hill for 3½ years but is only making $7.85 an hour. She turned out for last week’s protest clutching her three-month-old son, Eryn, to her side.
“We need better pay and benefits,” she said. “I’m out here now so he’ll have it when he’s my age.”
And she is not alone.
The Fight for $15 movement started two years ago in retail and fast food but has grown to include homecare providers, adjunct faculty, bank workers, airport workers and thousands of others.
A MORAL ISSUE
Pastor Mary Albert of Epiphany United Church of Christ, joined the workers April 1 standing outside the Lindell Blvd. McDonald’s in the rain and encouraged them to stand together.
“Economic justice is a moral issue,” she said. “When corporations and hospitals and universities oppress their workers, that is just not right. Until we all stand together, we all stand alone.”