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Fast Food Strikes Lead into Labor Day

PHOTO: Missouri quick-service restaurant workers stage a one-day strike earlier this month. Courtesy Missouri Jobs with Justice.

PHOTO: Missouri quick-service restaurant workers stage a one-day strike earlier this month. Courtesy Missouri Jobs with Justice.


August 28, 2013

ST. LOUIS - As Labor Day approaches, fast food workers are striking again to demand higher wages. There have been a growing number of such strikes across the nation for about a year, and this one is scheduled for Thursday in 30 cities, including St. Louis.

it isn't teenagers living at home who hold most of these jobs, said Jeannette Mott Oxford, executive director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare; it's people with families who can't make ends meet.

"Those jobs are not paying the cost of basic human needs," she said. "Fully, one out of five Missouri households lives on less than $17,000 a year."

So, how can a person raising a family on minimum wage get up the courage to walk off the job? More faith communities are mobilizing around their plight by walking them back in to work when the strike ends. They remind the manager that cutting a worker's hours or retaliating in any way is against the law.

The new approach has been working, said the Rev. Martin Rafanan, co-chair of Missouri Jobs with Justice. After earlier strikes, 40 people in St. Louis said their employers retaliated, but Rafanan said getting a crowd of supporters who refuse to leave without first talking to the manager seems to have helped.

"Anyone who was terminated got their job back," he said. "Anyone who lost wages got their wages back. Anybody who lost hours got their hours back. Anyone who was disrespected in the workplace, we got managers removed."

Opponents of raising the minimum wage say these businesses are franchises run by local people who pay their workers fairly. However, Rafanan pointed out that one of the Missouri restaurants is run by its national corporation and another is owned by a group of National Football League players.

When people don't make enough money to support their families, Oxford said, taxpayer supported programs such as food assistance, subsidized housing and child care are needed.

"I want to know that workers that I interact with are paid fairly, that their kids are safe and in high-quality child care, and that they are able to have decent housing and their utilities on at their house," she said. "That just seems right to me."

Missouri's minimum wage is $7.35 an hour. President Obama has proposed increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2015. However, analysts say that if the minimum wage from 1968 had been adjusted for inflation, it already would be up to $10.56 an hour.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO