Minnesota fast food workers take part in nationwide strike

Thursday September 4, 2014

Via Workday Minnesota:

MINNEAPOLIS - Workers at McDonald’s, Subway and other fast food restaurants in the Twin Cities joined a nationwide strike Thursday for $15 an hour and the right to form a union.

At 6 a.m., about a dozen strikers and scores of supporters marched to the McDonald’s at 1440 Stinson Blvd., Minneapolis, filling the restaurant. Two strikers spoke to the crowd, which then moved outside to hear from several elected officials, including Congressman Keith Ellison.

“A lot of us work really hard . . . and we don’t get paid enough,” said Washington Griffin, a McDonald’s employee.

Added Eneida Jaimes, also a McDonald’s worker: “I am fighting for my daughters’ futures. I want them to be able to go to college and for that I need to be paid more than poverty wages.”

Median pay across the United States for front-line fast-food jobs is $8.69 an hour, with many jobs paying at or near the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, according to a 2013 report by the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center.

Researchers estimate that 87 percent of fast food workers receive no health benefits from their employer. More than half of fast food workers must seek food stamps and other public assistance to feed their families.

In contrast, the CEO of McDonald’s makes more than $9,000 an hour, according to analysis by the personal finance website, NerdWallet.

Ellison called the inequity in pay “unacceptable.”

“People should be paid so that if you are working fulltime, you are not living in poverty,” he told the crowd.

Ellison reminded the workers they have the right to strike without fear of harassment. The co-chair of the 70-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, he is the author of legislation that would make union organizing a civil right and bolster protections for workers who speak out.

The Twin Cities fast food workers were scheduled to hold a second rally later in the day at a McDonald’s in south Minneapolis. Both events were organized in conjunction with CTUL, the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha/Center for Workers United in Struggle, which has been successful in winning improved wages and working conditions for cleaners at Target stores and other large retailers.

Walkouts took place in more than 150 cities, according to the movement, "Low Pay Is Not OK," which got its start in New York City in 2012.

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