Fast food workers and supporters donned ponchos and held signs today as they rallied for change in the Central West End as part of the STL Can’t Survive on $7.35 campaign.
Protesters marched between Arby’s, McDonald’s, and Domino’s Pizza as they seek a pay increase for employees to $15 an hour and the right to unionize without backlash.
One of the protesters was Kenta Jackson, a shift leader at Church’s Chicken who makes $8.50 an hour. She didn’t tell her manager she wouldn’t be at work, but isn’t worried about the repercussions.
“I know it won’t happen overnight, but I feel if we fight harder and stick together as a union, then it will go somewhere,” she says. “It’s just a fight every single day. It will make a difference, [that’s] how I feel.”
Patrick Leeper, an employee at Chipotle who makes $8.55 an hour, says he worries every day about getting by. He didn’t tell his employer he wouldn’t be in today, but considers it an “honor” to support the cause.
“People are having to make sacrifices. Should I pay my electric bill or should I get something to eat?” he says. “It’s time for change.”
The first wave of protest was seen Wednesday when fast food workers staged a walk out at a McDonalds on West Florissant and at Jimmy Johns in Soulard.
Campaign director Reverend Martin Rafanan is part of the team of clergymen and community leaders escorting workers back to their jobs. He says the clergy support helps to establish community solidarity.
“We stand with these workers, we are watching. If anything happens to them we return in full force to make sure that no retaliation or no reprisals take place in relationship to these workers,” he says. “We believe that when the community gets engaged in that way, there’s less chance of that taking place.”
Similar protests were held in New York and Chicago in the last month. Today’s activities include another march and concert in the Delmar Loop. Fast food workers can sign a petition online and can find out more information at the campaign website.