Inspired by national movement, local fast food workers plan strike Thursday

Thursday, August 29, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:53 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 29, 2013
On its face, it looks as if the federal minimum wage has been rising steadily since 1978. But a 1978 dollar and a 2013 dollar aren’t the same. When it’s adjusted for inflation, the value of minimum wage has been in decline for the past 30 years.

In 1978, the minimum wage was $2.65, or $9.49 in 2013 dollars. The current minimum wage has remained at $7.25 since 2009.

COLUMBIA — Some local fast food workers will walk off the job Thursday in solidarity with a national call to strike for higher wages.

According to a release sent out by Shannon Garth-Rhodes, spokeswoman for the St. Louis Organizing Committee, the national strike will demand $15 an hour for workers' labor and the right to unionize without retaliation.

In Columbia, workers at McDonald's, Taco Bell and Burger King will be part of the strike. A news conference will be held at 9:30 a.m. at Hardee's at 200 S. Providence Road, and a rally will be held at noon at Taco Bell at 508 Nifong Blvd.

The Rev. Molly Housh Gordon of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbia is one of the members of the clergy supporting the workers Thursday.

"It's all emerging very quickly, which is exciting," she said.

Interest in a Columbia strike sparked from similar movements close to home in Kansas City and St. Louis, Housh Gordon said.

"After Kansas City and St. Louis, interest has been ramping up," she said.

The national movement started as early as November in New York, according to the news release, when 200 workers held a strike with the support of their communities and clergy allies.

Seven other cities picked up the cause during spring and summer of this year, according to the release — Flint, Mich.; Chicago; Detroit; Milwaukee; St. Louis; Kansas City; and Seattle.

The movement has spread with the help of social media. Fast Food Forward, a New York-based organization that supports the strikes, has 6,573 likes on Facebook, 2,106 followers on Twitter and has started a petition that had more than 125,000 signatures and counting Wednesday night.

Many of the other cities involved have Twitter and Facebook pages of their own with local followers. Those on social media have event pages for the strikes planned to take place Thursday.

Housh Gordon said she has been supporting the workers for one main reason.

"It has to do with human dignity," she said. "I believe in the inherent worth in people."

She said $15 would be a living wage and that, as it is now, most fast food workers can't afford to pay their bills.

James Brown of Columbia agreed. As a crew trainer at Taco Bell making $7.50 an hour, he said he can't support his family of three.

"I can't live. I can't support my family," said Brown of his motivation to join the strike. "You ever heard that phrase 'keep your head above water?' ... Well I come up for air every blue moon."

The $15 would satisfy Brown, but he thinks it should be a bit more.

"Ninety-five percent of (stress) is financial," he said.

Brown said he is both angry and disappointed with the situation he has at work.

"I'm a hard worker," said Brown, who works an average of 35 hours a week.

If the big corporations don't respond to the strikes, Brown said they're going to lose at least one employee.

"They're gonna lose the work," Brown said. "I have to shoot for the future."

Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.

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Sally Willis August 29, 2013 | 8:18 a.m.

I think those jobs that pay minimum wage are not meant to be life long jobs, more like high school careers. Also thirty five house a week is not working hard. I personally work fifty hours a week. Maybe if he can't support his family of three on his minimum wage job he should either get another job or work a job that pays construction, plumbing, a skilled trade. I personally have to work two jobs at times as a single mother, but I don't complain because I know I can do whatever I have to pay my bills. I think fifteen dollars is excessive and completely ridicules!

(Report Comment)
Jerri Eldridge August 29, 2013 | 8:31 a.m.

What about employees who work in higher education for over 20 years who don't make $15.00 per hour and they can barely make it pay day to pay day -- I'm speaking of regular hourly staff not administrators, doctors, nurses or professional staff.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble August 29, 2013 | 2:17 p.m.

If a group of people think they deserve to work at more than a poverty wage, then more power to them in organizing and making their voices heard. Every benefit and workplace protection we enjoy in other fields was achieved by people doing this same thing - and in many cases, by taking it a step further and forming unions.

The kinds of poverty wages paid in fast food simply offloads expenses to the rest of us, through the social services and health care costs that aren't paid for by the employer - or can't be paid for by the employee, due to the low wages. Poverty wages are costing *all* of us.

Those who wonder why fast-food jobs should pay as much as more skilled labor currently receives should instead why skilled labor isn't paid more. It simply shouldn't be as hard as it is for many people to make basic ends meet. Ultimately, what this is about is exploitation of workers, and when we undercut efforts like this, we help advance the divide-and-conquer aspects of mass exploitation.

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis August 29, 2013 | 4:01 p.m.

What it boils down to is that if you raise minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour every ones pay goes up and so does the cost of everything. There will always be the have and the have not's, it's the harsh reality.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 29, 2013 | 5:11 p.m.

Computerize, computerize, computerize.

It's coming.

Folks think a gov't mandate eliminates unintended consequences. They are wrong. You force a behavior, businesses (i.e., humans with $$$ at risk) will respond in ways you haven't anticipated.

PS: Save these jobs for teenagers and very young single adults. Adults should stay the hell out of these jobs. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this is not a family-raising job.......

(Report Comment)

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