St. Louis fast food workers protest again over wages
Labor organizers on Thursday turned up the pressure on McDonald’s and other fast-food chains to raise worker pay, with job actions and protests in more than 150 cities, including St. Louis.
The demonstrations were part of a year-long campaign by unions to bring attention to the plight of low-wage workers and get the public behind the idea of a $15-an-hour wage.
In Ferguson, about 150 protesters stood in front of a McDonald’s during the breakfast rush and shouted slogans about wanting more pay.
“We want change and we don’t mean pennies,” they chanted.
Corey Ford, 18, has worked at the store for two years and earns $7.69 an hour. He said he’s supported, in part, by family but thinks the restaurant should pay workers more.
“We need $15 an hour,” he said. “McDonald’s makes so much money I don’t see how they can’t afford it.”
Ifama Kellin, 20, is a crew trainer at the Ferguson restaurant. After three years on the job, she’s taken on new responsibilities but still only makes slightly above minimum wage. Her paycheck is gone the day she gets it — after she pays rent, a car loan, her phone bill and other living expenses.
“It was just supposed to be a summer job, but I’m still here,” she said.
But for her, McDonald’s is not the end. She plans to start college in the fall and one day open her own bridal dress shop. Will she pay her workers $15 an hour?
“Maybe $11 or $12,” she said sheepishly, “depending on how the business is going.”
About an hour later, the same workers and protesters traveled to a McDonald’s on Tucker Boulevard and flooded the restaurant, chanting at the front counter “We got your back.” Patrons couldn’t order — the shouting was too loud.
Among the protesters was LaShunda Moore, 36, who works at the McDonald’s on Lindell Boulevard. She said she works hard but only earns $7.85 an hour after 14 months on the job.
“I start work at 5 a.m., and by 5:05 a.m., I’m sweating,” she said. “I work in the grill area, and people don’t see all the work we do.”
Moore is the mother of five children, but they live with their father because “I don’t get paid enough to support everyone,” she said. “He’s a telemarketer and sits down all day but gets paid better than I do.”
Moore said she feels stuck in her job and her apartment. She has asked her boss, to no avail, if she can advance or get even a quarter more an hour. “The way the job market is, I’m not going to find anything better,” she said.
Another protester who feels stuck is Candace Mapp, 28, who has worked three years at McDonald’s. At $7.65 an hour, she takes home about $420 every two weeks after taxes. “I do have a plan,” she said. “I want to go back to school. But if I go back to school, I can’t pay my bills.”
Coordinators with Show Me 15, the group leading the protest, targeted several other area restaurants, including a Wendy’s on Gravois Road.
Turnout for the protests have varied widely. The scope of actions planned for overseas also differed depending on the country. Images on social media showed workers demonstrating in Ireland, Denmark and Brazil, among other nations.
In New York City, a couple hundred demonstrators beat drums, blew whistles and chanted in the rain outside a Domino’s for about a half hour. Among those who took turns speaking were local lawmakers, community leaders and fast-food workers.
“Corporations are able to make money — millions and billions of dollars. We should be able to make a decent salary so we can take care of our families,” said Sheila Brown, a mother of four who works at a KFC.