Tax Day actions echo worldwide call for higher wages, union rights

web.April15-fastfood-15Fast food workers kicked off a Twin Cities-wide day of action for higher pay early this morning, going on strike for the third time in the last seven months.

Although McDonald’s recently announced it would raise its minimum wage to $9 per hour, striking workers, organizing locally with the low-wage worker center CTUL, pledged to keep fighting until they win $15 per hour and union rights.

Momentum appears to be on their side. Organizers said about 80 workers from 20 fast food restaurants in the Twin Cities area joined the strike – up from 50 participants in the last strike Dec. 4.

Guillermo Lindsay, a Fight for 15 supporter fired by McDonald's last weekend, addresses supporters on the picket line.

Guillermo Lindsay, a Fight for 15 supporter fired by McDonald’s last weekend, addresses supporters on the picket line.

Striking workers gathered before dawn outside a McDonald’s on Lake Street in Minneapolis. They picketed, rallied and entered the restaurant to show their support for workers staffing the store – and to invite them to join the Fight for $15.

After leaving the restaurant, strikers announced they would move their protest to the McDonald’s in Dinkytown, which fired a vocal supporter of the Fight for $15, Guillermo Lindsay, last week.

Lindsay, who participated in both of the previous two fast food strikes, believes the timing of his dismissal was no coincidence.

“It’s retaliation,” he said. “I’ve been a leader in this fight since September 2014. By discharging me, by retaliating against organizing, this was a message they sent to other managers and workers that if we discharged him, it could happen to other people.”

The Fight for 15 movement is mobilizing supporters in 200 U.S. cities and 30 countries today.

Locally, workers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will take up the call for $15 wages and union rights with an action at 1:30 p.m. Students and workers will cap the day of action with a rally at the University of Minnesota at 4:30 p.m., followed by a march to the Dinkytown McDonald’s. Click here to view the Facebook event page.

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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has issued a statement in support of Fight for $15 day of action:

Today’s actions by tens of thousands of workers significantly advances a raising wages agenda that gives every worker a chance to achieve the American Dream.

The voices of Walmart and fast food workers have shown the power of collective action in standing up to corporate greed and a system that for far too long has only benefitted those at the very top.

While some wages have been raised, there is much work to be done, and workers will continue to speak out until wages are fair, conditions are improved, and every voice is heard in the workplace.

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MSP Airport workers, including newly appointed Metropolitan Airports Commission member Ibrahim Mohamed, marched to the offices of Delta subcontractor Air Serv this afternoon, demanding higher wages, fair schedules and better working conditions.

Air Serv employs cart drivers, wheelchair assistants and cabin cleaners at MSP Airport. Most earn the minimum wage or slightly above, and they have reported a sharp drop in hours since the company switched to an on-call scheduling system last year.

Organizing efforts at MSP Airport prompted the MAC to pass an ordinance requiring airport employers to provide paid sick leave for workers. Gov. Mark Dayton recently added his voice to calls for higher wages.

But Ibrahim Mohamed, one of two industry workers appointed by Dayton to the MAC, said employers like Air Serv can do more to ensure fair working conditions at MSP. Despite working for 11 years at the airport, he makes just $8 per hour.

“As cart drivers, wheelchair assistants and cabin cleaners, we do incredibly important work to make the airport great, and today we are continuing our fight to get fair pay and benefits that would allow us to support our families,” he said. “We hope our employer understands our value and will join Governor Dayton in supporting airport workers who are calling on the MAC to raise wages.”

The action came just one week after a new report, Waiting for Takeoff, highlighted poverty facing East African communities in Minnesota and how the MSP airport, the largest place of employment for these communities, could make positive steps towards ending this crisis by raising wages for sub-contracted workers.

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