Fast-food workers stage walkouts over wages

5:59 PM, May 11, 2013   |    comments
McDonalds restaurant (Photo: Getty Images)
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By JC Reindl and John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT - Fast-food workers and labor activists staged sporadic walkouts and protests at various chain eateries in Friday as part of an organized nationwide protest to gain better wages and working conditions.

Organizers in Detroit said several hundred food workers participated in the walkouts, which succeeded in disrupting operations at six chain restaurants in the city, including two McDonald's, a Subway, a Burger King, a Long John Silver's and a Popeyes.

Workers at more than 30 fast-food restaurants in St. Louis walked off the job Thursday in a similar one-day strike. That followed strikes at fast-food chains in New York and Chicago.

The Detroit strike was organized by a coalition of labor, faith and activist groups calling itself the Michigan Workers Organizing Committee. Strike relief payments of $50 per striker were offered to those who walked off their jobs, organizers said.

Detroit pastor Charles Williams II of the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church said workers want better working conditions, the right to unionize and an increase in the state minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current $7.40.

"There's really nothing you can accomplish in terms of taking care of a family with that wage," Williams said.

The one-day protest started early this morning at a McDonald's on Gratiot, one of about 50 eateries organizers said they planned to target.

The day's activities concluded with a large rally and march outside a McDonald's in New Center. An estimated 200 marchers shut down rush hour traffic for several minutes before the group moved to the sidewalks after police arrived.

Demetrice Kidd, 35, of Detroit said he skipped his Taco Bell job to take part in the strike day and march. A single father of a 7-year-old son, Kidd said he barely gets by on his hourly wage of $7.75.

"Unfortunately, here in Detroit, the cost of living is pretty high, but not a lot of people are being paid well," he said.

Brandishing a bullhorn, Pastor W.J. Rideout III of All God's People Church in Detroit helped lead marchers up and down a stretch of West Grand Boulevard.

"(Fast-food chains) make $200 billion a year, and they're crying about giving minimum-wage workers $15 an hour?" Rideout said later. "It's time to stop giving them slave wages and give them something that they deserve."

A McDonald's corporate representative was not immediately available for comment this afternoon.

Mike Telly, manager of the McDonald's in Detroit, said several protesters stood outside his restaurant from early Friday morning to about 11:30 a.m. He said the activists arrived on a bus that later returned to pick them up.

According to the manager, some of the activists entered the restaurant and offered workers $50 to walk out and join them.

Although Telly said that none of his workers walked out, a spokeswoman for the strike coalition, Darci McConnell, said at least 13 workers at the McDonald's either walked out or never showed up.

Aris Lynch, 21, who worked the front counter register at the McDonald's, said activists came inside and urged her to join, but she turned down their offer.

"My job is more important than losing it," Lynch said.

McDonald's employee Keith Bullard, 29, of Inkster said he walked out of work to join the strike wave. A married father with two young children, Bullard said he makes $7.50 an hour and has trouble getting more than 16 hours a week. But he said he works hard during those hours.

"We deserve $15 an hour because we work hard for it," he said.

Detroit Free Press

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