Nearly 500 fast-food workers were arrested Thursday in strikes around the country. Thousands of cashiers and cooks in 150 U.S. cities walked off their jobs at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and other fast-food chains demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union rights.
The Fight for 15 campaign started back in November of 2012 and since then has spread from city to city with increasing numbers of activists pushing for better wages and treatment.
The massive, nationwide protest came on the heels of a Labor Day speech in which President Obama praised the fast-food worker movement:
All across the country right now there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity. You know what, if I were looking for a job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union. If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union … I’d want a union looking out for me.
Ms. has brought you consistent coverage of the growing fast-food worker movement; the issue is close to our hearts because the vast majority of fast-food employees are women. Below, read highlights from Thursday’s powerful nationwide strike:
In the birthplace of the fast-food worker movement, 34 strikers were arrested after they blocked traffic and protested in front of McDonald’s locations. They were all charged with disorderly conduct by the NYPD.
More than 50 workers were arrested while singing “We Shall Not Be Moved” during a sit-in near a local McDonald’s. StandUpKC, a local coalition of fast-food workers, offered to post bail money for arrested workers in support of their efforts. The arrested workers were charged with failure to use the sidewalk and were later released.
Twenty-six workers were arrested after they sat down in front of a McDonald’s chanting “We Can’t Survive on $7.25”, blocking a major thoroughfare for two hours. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) was among those arrested as she stood in solidarity with fast-food workers. After she was issued a $691 ticket for disorderly conduct and released from jail, she said in a statement:
I take great pride in supporting Milwaukee workers as they risk arrest in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow for their families. I’ve read their letters, I’ve heard their calls, and I’ve listened to their stories. I understand their struggle, but more importantly, I see their drive to fight for a future that is equal to their talents and worthy of their dreams.
After ignoring police orders to disperse, 19 fast-food workers protesting between a McDonald’s and a Burger King on the city’s South Side were arrested. None of them will face criminal charges, but they will be given citations for disrupting traffic.
Police arrested at least 25 protesters after they blocked traffic on a major street on the city’s east side. Because so many striking workers were taken into custody, officers were running out of handcuffs, according to local news reports. Just this week, the minimum wage in Detroit was increased from $7.40/hour to $8.15/hour, but that still only comes to roughly $17,000 a year before taxes.
As Ms. reported in our Fall 2013 issue, fast-food workers are predominantly women between 25 and 64 years old, and many of them are the breadwinners of their families. The median national wage is only $8.94/hour and due to their poverty wages, more than half of fast-food workers qualify for public assistance.