Striking fast food workers and community supporters rallied outside McDonald’s restaurants in St. Paul and Minneapolis Thursday, joining a nationwide day of action in 320 cities to call for a $15 minimum wage, paid sick time and union rights.
The Twin Cities actions were organized by CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha/Center of Workers United in Struggle, a community affiliate of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, and the Minnesota AFL-CIO.
Before dawn in St. Paul, more than 100 local fast food workers who were on strike for the day gathered with supporters at the McDonald’s at 471 Marion St. near the state Capitol.
Later in the day, during the evening rush hour, a crowd of about 200 strikers and supporters rallied outside the McDonald’s, at 210 E. Lake St., Minneapolis, prompting the restaurant to close. The protestors then occupied the street in front of the store for more than an hour, causing police to reroute traffic from busy E. Lake St.
Several speakers addressed the crowd:
“Fast food workers across the country are fighting for a livable wage,” said Guillermo Lindsay, McDonald's worker, CTUL member, and member of the National Organizing Committee of the #Fightfor15. “We’re standing up for our rights.” Lindsay said he personally was on strike for the day at the two McDonald’s where he worked.
Germaine Hudson, a Burger King worker and CTUL member, said he was a first-time striker. Workers need $15 per hour, he said, “so the mother and father don’t need to struggle and can raise their kids better.”
“What I’m fighting for is $15 per hour, sick days, and a union,” said Steven Suffridge, a McDonald’s worker on strike at the 210 E. Lake St. store.
“There’s more than enough to go around, said Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP. “Corporations need to pay their fair share of taxes and not build empires on the backs of the poor and working people.”
A proposal to mandate paid sick time in the City of Minneapolis is before the Minneapolis City Council, where it is advancing slowly. “We will need you to come and hit the streets and keep pushing,” Ninth Ward City Council Member Alondra Cano told the crowd. “Our community can no longer wait.”
“We won’t win if we wait for the bosses to do the right thing,” said Ginger Jentzen of 15 Now. She said the group planned to put a referendum on the ballot in Minneapolis for the November 2016 elections to establish a $15 minimum wage in the city.
As protestors marched in a circle blocking the intersection of E. Lake Street and 2nd Ave. So., striking fast food worker Steven Suffridge spoke with the Labor Review.
“Sixteen years of my life has been devoted to fast food,” he said. “That’s all the jobs I could find.”
Suffridge said he had worked at the 210 E. Lake St. McDonald’s for two years, where he earns $9 per hour and receives no benefits. He said the restaurant limits his hours to no more than 30-35 hours per week to keep him from full-time status.
“When we were brought up we were brought up to work,” he said.
“I’m going to keep on fighting,” Suffridge said. “This is about everybody. We’re fighting for everybody.”
At the rally, CTUL announced plans to send several buses from the Twin Cities to Chicago in May for McDonald’s annual shareholders meeting, where a national demonstration will be planned. For more information, visit the CTUL website.
Workers are organizing through unions and other organizations to improve their lives. Union representation provides a voice on the job and the opportunity to improve wages, benefits and working conditions.