Fast-food workers and retail janitors from 70 Twin Cities stores joined a nationwide strike today, rallying early this morning with other low-wage workers in support of a $15 minimum wage, paid sick days and other policies in the stalled Working Families Agenda.
Workers in 270 cities planned to join the strike, which mostly targeted fast-food employers. Organizers said it was the largest strike of the Fight for $15 campaign to date – a sign of growing support for workers’ demands of $15 and union rights.
Locally, striking workers also included retail janitors, who, like fast-food workers, are organizing with the Twin Cities-based worker center CTUL, a Spanish acronym for Center for Workers United in the Struggle. Home care workers, bank workers, childcare providers, temp workers and Black Lives Matter activists bolstered their ranks on early-morning picket lines outside McDonald’s and Macy’s in Minneapolis.
Guillermo Lindsey, who works at a McDonald’s in Roseville, said he and other strikers are among “thousands of low-wage workers in Minneapolis and in the nation who have taken bold action for change in their communities.”
The strikers seized on the nationwide events as an opportunity to renew pressure on the Minneapolis City Council to pass the Working Families Agenda – a $15 minimum wage, paid sick time, fair scheduling and increased enforcement of wage theft.
Mayor Betsy Hodges and a majority of council members recently backed away from their support of sick time and scheduling ordinances. Workers planned to march from a picket line outside Macy’s on Nicollet Mall to City Hall to serve notice that the fight was far from over.
“Seattle is getting $15. New York is getting $15,” 16-year fast-food veteran Steven Suffrige said. “Why can’t we get $15?”
Recent polling indicates the public is on Suffrige and other low-wage workers’ side. Among likely voters in Minneapolis, according to a poll conducted by Minnesotans for a Fair Economy
, 82 percent support raising the minimum wage to $15 now or over time, and 91 percent support fair scheduling and paid time off for illnesses or family emergencies.
By delaying action on the Working Families Agenda, strikers said, city officials are further denying justice to low-wage workers, many of whom are women and minorities.
“I work seven days a week,” said striking worker Michaela Hudson, who cleans the Macy’s in Ridgedale Mall. “I don’t get a day off; I don’t get any benefits.”
Lena Gardner, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement in Minneapolis, said the average worker of color in Minneapolis earns $28,000 annually, compared to $74,000 for the average white worker. “They want our bodies to control for their profits, but they don’t want our lives to matter,” Gardner said.
In addition to targeting fast-food restaurants and retail cleaning contractors, the strike took aim at Super America. The Minnesota-based chain of gas stations has come under fire from workers in St. Cloud, organizing with Working America and the Greater Minnesota Worker Center, for its hiring practices.
Workers have been asking the company for a meeting about the issue for months, said Makaida Garrett, a mother of five who has worked at a Super America in St. Cloud for about a year. Meanwhile, she continues to earn just $9.50 per hour and was recently passed over for a management-track position.
“There are many women and people of color who work at this company but are not properly represented in management,” Garrett said. “We are no longer asking for that meeting; we are demanding that they meet with us.”