St. Louis fast food workers join 150-city strike as campaign for higher pay and better working conditions goes global

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FAST FOOD WORKERS at a protest outside a McDonald’s in downtown St. Louis late last year. – Labor Tribune photo
FAST FOOD WORKERS at a protest outside a McDonald’s in downtown St. Louis late last year.
– Labor Tribune photo

St. Louis – Calling for $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation, fast-food workers in St. Louis walked off their jobs Thursday as part of a wave of strikes and protests in 150 cities across the United States and 33 additional countries on six continents.

Dozens of workers participated in a walkout and demonstration at the McDonald’s in the 9100 block of Florissant Ave. in Ferguson Thursday morning. They planned another walkout and demonstration at the Wendy's at 3801 Gravois Ave. at noon.

The demonstrations come as President Obama continues to push for an increase in the minimum wage, which is currently $7.50 an hour in Missouri and $8.25 in Illinois.

Workers in St. Louis are calling for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. They are expected to strike at St. Louis’ major fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC. Clergy and community supporters will join fast-food workers on the strike lines.

In addition to the St. Louis area effort, strikes were expected throughout the U.S., from Oakland to Raleigh, including the first-ever walkouts in Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia and Sacramento.

Around the world, workers were planning major protests in 80 cities spanning 33 countries, including in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Malawi, Morocco, New Zealand, Panama, and the United Kingdom.

                                                             GROWING MOVEMENT

McDONALD’S EMPLOYEE Rebekah Izeman, of St. Louis, at a protest last month outside a McDonald’s luncheon meeting. – Labor Tribune photo
McDONALD’S EMPLOYEE Rebekah Izeman, of St. Louis, at a protest last month outside a McDonald’s luncheon meeting.
– Labor Tribune photo

The campaign for higher pay and better working conditions started in New York City in November 2012, when 200 fast-food workers walked off their jobs demanding $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation.

Since then, the movement has spread to more than 150 cities in every region of the country – and now around the world.

The growing fight for $15 has been credited with elevating the debate around inequality in the U.S.

When Seattle's mayor proposed a $15 minimum wage earlier this month, Businessweek said he was “adopting the rallying cry of fast-food workers.”

NOT JUST TEENAGERS

The movement is challenging fast food companies’ outdated notion that their workers are teenagers looking for pocket change.

Today’s workers are mothers and fathers struggling to raise children on wages that are too low. And they’re showing the industry that if it doesn’t raise pay, it will continue to be at the center of the national debate on what’s wrong with our economy.

EXPOSING WAGE THEFT AND DISPARITY

Earlier this year, workers in three states filed class-action suits against McDonald’s alleging widespread and systematic wage theft.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, McDonald’s said worker protests might force it to raise wages this year.

A recent report by Demos, a public policy organization in New York, showed the industry has by far the largest disparity between worker and CEO pay.

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