Yesterday fast-food workers in more than 100 cities across the U.S. made good on their promise to strike against the corporations that rake in billions on the backs of their low-wage labor. Starting at 6 a.m., before the sun had even risen in some cities, protesters began organizing and rallies began. Carrying signs that read “Fight for 15,” “Can’t Survive on $7.25” and “We Are Worth More”, strikers temporarily halted fast-food service at some establishments as they walked off their jobs for higher pay and overdue respect. Ms. has brought you ongoing coverage of the nascent movement, and now here’s a spotlight on what happened in a few key cities:
Around dawn, fast-food workers and community activists flooded into a McDonald’s in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles, chanting “When we fight, we win,” as customers continued to place orders. They also held up posters featuring the latest cover of Ms. and the hashtag #StandWithRosie.
Women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke joined the protest, alongside Pastor William Smart, Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “And we’re going to keep coming back,” shouted Fluke into a megaphone as she stood surrounded by dozens of other FightFor15LA protesters. “This community is done with this kind of undignified treatment for these workers.”
“We have to stand up for our rights … We work too hard to be making $7.25 an hour,” said cashier Elizabeth Massey-Demus to a reporter outside of a downtown Wendy’s. Local news sources reported that rallies staged in downtown Pittsburgh involved around 75 people protesting outside of a Dunkin’ Donuts, a McDonald’s and a Wendy’s. The restaurants remained opened and continued to serve patrons during the protests.
Workers and organizers picketed outside of a Burger King on the east side of the city, demanding a raise to $15 an hour. The New Orleans metro area alone has more than 7,300 fast-food workers, with the majority of them having to rely on public assistance to supplement their salaries. Within the state of Louisiana, 72 percent of fast-food workers are on public assistance due to their poverty wages.
Strikers started off the morning with a prayer vigil before making their way to fast-food restaurants throughout the city. For some, it was their second and third time striking for increased wages and a labor union.
So many workers and organizations know that if we don’t change the trajectory in this country toward poverty wages and industries that make billions of dollars, the gap between the rich and poor is just going to grow.
The Loop and the Magnificent Mile saw their fair share of protesters on Thursday morning, chanting “We want change, and we ain’t talking about pennies!” as they marched to fast-food restaurants downtown. They held up a huge puppet of the Grinch during their demonstrations to represent the greed of restaurant corporations who refuse to pay livable wages. Low pay forces 51 percent of Chicago fast-food workers onto public assistance, costing Illinois taxpayers $368 million annually, according to a report from the University of California, Berkeley.
Ms. will continue reporting on the fast-food worker movement, so follow us on Twitter for updates and tweet with the hashtags #StandWithRosie, #FastFoodStrikes and #Fightfor15. And if you were at one of the strikes or rallies, please let us know what happened in Comments!
Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.