St. Paul fast-food workers strike for $15 on Labor Day

Striking fast-food workers rallied with supporters outside a St. Paul McDonald’s this morning, demanding $15 per hour and respect on the job.

“We need something to live on,” said 27-year-old Tay Polite, on strike from her job at McDonald’s in the city’s Midway district. “Even with a job we’re still struggling to support our families.

“For as much as we work and as hard as we work, we deserve that $15 an hour.”

Fight for $15 strikes and demonstrations targeted fast-food employers in 400 cities worldwide on Labor Day.

Locally, the strike kicked off a series of events planned by unions and community groups pushing a $15 minimum wage in St. Paul and funding for enforcement of the historic minimum-wage ordinance passed in Minneapolis earlier this year.

“Many people are currently working two and three jobs to support their families,” St. Paul Regional Labor Federation President Bobby Kasper said. “Working families are just not able to get by with the current minimum wage. We need to stand behind striking fast food workers and keep working to get families back in the middle class.”

Striking fast-food workers, including Tay Polite and April Reeves (R), were recognized during a rally on Labor Day.

Elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, supported striking workers on the early-morning picket line.

“The CEO of McDonald’s is making $9,000 an hour and can probably afford to get by on $6,000 an hour,” Ellison said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that they claim they can’t afford to pay workers $15 minimum wage and I’m proud to stand with workers this Labor Day as they fight to reclaim what the true meaning of what Labor Day really means, and that is to uplift workers.”

Fast-food workers in the Twin Cities are organizing with the low-wage worker center CTUL, which began reaching out to workers in the industry three years ago. The campaign has gained momentum since then, with several strikes targeting fast-food employers and actions in support of local minimum-wage ordinances.

Although the federal minimum wage hasn’t budged since 2009, Fight for $15 campaigns nationwide have resulted in wage hikes totaling more than $62 billion for 22 million working people, according to a recent report. The estimate reflects both corporate policy changes and political victories in places like California, New York, Seattle and Minneapolis.

April Reeves, who earns $11 an hour working at the Midway McDonald’s, hopes St. Paul is the next city to join that list.

“More money is always better when you’re struggling check to check,” Reeves said. “What do my grandkids need? What does my child need? Should we buy food or pay these bills? Those are the day-to-day choices I face.

“All I want is justice. Give us the money we need to survive.”

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