Twin Cities fast-food workers strike for higher wages, union rights

Striking workers rally inside a McDonald's in Uptown Minneapolis.

Striking workers rally inside a McDonald’s in Uptown Minneapolis.

Twenty-nine workers from 14 fast-food restaurants in the Twin Cities walked off the job today, joining a nationwide strike for higher pay and the right to organize a union without retaliation from their employers.

Striking workers joined elected officials and supporters from the faith, labor and progressive community at demonstrations outside – and inside – two McDonald’s restaurants in Minneapolis, calling for an industry-wide minimum wage of $15 per hour.

“I have been working in the food service industry for 31 years,” said McDonald’s worker Teresa Benson of Minneapolis. “I recently started working at McDonald’s, and the wage here is far too low for the industry. We deserve more.”

Going on strike and taking collective action, Benson added, “is the only way these companies are going to listen to us and pay us what we deserve.”

web.fastfoodstrike3Inside the McDonald’s in Uptown Minneapolis, striking worker Ismael Santos accused his employer of failing to pay him appropriately for working overtime, and said his pay was docked when money went missing from the store’s cash register.

Santos is not alone. According to a poll by Hart Research, 89 percent of fast-food workers have had money stolen from their checks.

“It’s not just me,” Santos said through a Spanish interpreter. “It’s fast-food workers from across the industry… Don’t be afraid! Join us!”

Plenty of Twin Cities workers are doing just that, according to organizers with CTUL, a Spanish acronym for “Center for Workers United in the Struggle.” The low-wage workers’ center began organizing Twin Cities fast-food workers just three weeks ago – and was overwhelmed by workers’ eagerness to take action.

“An organizer came up to me and asked, ‘Would you like to make more money?’ I was like, ‘Hell yeah!’” said Nakia Joseph, who walked off the job at the Upton McDonald’s today. “I know it’s not just going to happen overnight, but I have faith it will happen. We can do this together.”

Joseph’s supervisor, Guillermo Lindsay, joined her on the picket line today. He said it’s not right that he and Joseph earn between $8 and $10 per hour, while fast-food executives take home millions.

“Eight or 10 bucks an hour for the hard work we do? It’s not even worth it,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay and Joseph expressed confidence they would not face retaliation for joining the strike.

“They can’t stop us from doing what we believe in,” Lindsay said.

Striking workers from the Uptown McDonald's include (L to R) Eneida Jaimes, Nakia Joseph, Guillermo Lindsay, Tarcila Cruz and Maritza Vidal, with Jayleen Mendez.

Striking workers from the Uptown McDonald’s include (L to R) Eneida Jaimes, Nakia Joseph, Guillermo Lindsay, Tarcila Cruz and Maritza Vidal, with Jayleen Mendez.

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