By Jason Sibert
Fast food workers and their allies gathered at McDonalds on North Tucker Street in St. Louis on Jan. 15 to fight for the causes of $15/hr and union representation. The Fight For 15 organization, which fights for both, staged a strike in 15 cities around the country on that day. “(First,) I’m fighting for my family, we need to survive,” said Monique Jamison, a St. Louis fast food worker, who attended the demonstration. “There are many people in my family who work in fast food. The second is for my community, we need this union. We need someone who will be behind us. If we push forward, our voices will be heard.”
The workers and their supporters gathered around McDonalds, where they and their cars donned signs that said “Fight for 15,” “Jobs with Justice,” “Unions for All,” “Respect Us, Protect Us, Pay Us,” and “Faith/Labor Alliance.” After the initial gathering, demonstrators drove their cars through the McDonalds parking lot for a more visible display. They also honked their horns.
Caprice Nevils, an organizer for the Service Employees International Union, attended the demonstration on behalf of the union. She spoke of the growth of the Fight for 15 movement. “Fight for 15 started for fast food workers,” she said. “As it grew, it started to include hospital and nursing home workers. We came out here in solidarity with other unions. We believe in higher wages, and we don’t want these workers to be in poverty wages.”
In front of the restaurant, a list of speakers spoke in favor of the cause. Rev. David Gerth of St. Louis Metropolitan Congregations was among the speakers. He referred to the demonstration as a “place where workers are fighting for their lives,” and he called on the crowd to ”scour out the racism and the sexism.” After Gerth, fast food workers spoke of how hard it was to survive on the low wages they were paid. Some spoke of the hardships of raising a family on their wages. Others chanted “What do we want? We want 15 an hour and a union!”
Fast food workers went on strike on Jan. 15 in memory of Martin Luther King’s birthday 92 years ago. The group, which is backed by the Service Employees International Union, has a petition on its website (Tell Biden/Harris: A $15/hr minimum wage in the first 100 days! | Fight for $15) urging President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to prioritize minimum wage in their first 100 days in office. The petition demands a $15/hr federal minimum wage, easier rules to join a union, a focus on racial justice, affordable health care, and holding companies accountable for “their failure to protect essential workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.”
Jason Sibert is Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project.