For Immediate Release
Strike Wave by Fast Food Workers Spreads to Nation's Heartland
Inspired by Walmart and New York City and Chicago Fast Food Walkouts, More than 100 St. Louis Workers Strike 30-Plus Major National Fast Food Restaurants
ST. LOUIS - More than 100 workers at St. Louis’ largest fast food chains walked off their jobs Wednesday and Thursday, calling for $15 an hour and the right toform a union free from retaliation. The walkout – hitting major national chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s Domino’s, Hardees and Jimmy John’s – marks the latest in a string of strikes in low-wage industries that began last fall at Walmart stores across the country and continued at fast-food restaurants and retail outlets in New York City and Chicago.
"There are days I wonder, ‘how am I going to get home’ because I can’t afford my bus fare,” said Patrick Leeper, who has worked at a St. Louis Chipotle for more than three years, “Sometimes I walk for more than an hour just to save my train fare so I can spend it on Ramen noodles. I can’t even think about groceries.”
Strikes Wednesday and Thursday come just weeks after hundreds of fast food and retail workers went on strike in Chicago and hundreds more walked off their jobs in New York City. In November, the strike wave by low-wage workers began on Black Friday, with hundreds of Walmart workerswalking off their jobs. It spread weeks later to fast food, with workers embarking on the first-ever strike to hit the industry.
Low-wage jobs have accounted for the bulk of new jobs added in the recovery, and retail and fast food are among the fastest-growing sectors.
The St. Louis strike comes amid growing concern from economists and other experts that the proliferation of low-wage work is hampering the nation’s recovery. In a speech last month, Federal Reserve Board Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin suggested the types of jobs being created are slowing economicgrowth. “Those jobs will directly affect the fortunes and challenges of households and neighborhoods as well as the course of the recovery,” she said. It also comes as major national companies like McDonald’s and Walmart are facing increasing questions about whether low wages are causing breakdowns in customer service.
“I’ve been at Jack in the Box for four years, cleaning and prepping food and all I get paid is $7.55 without any benefits,” said Anita Gregory, a mother of one, who is expecting her second child in the next few weeks. “I’m tired of having to struggle to survive while working so hard.”
Fast food workers bring $1 billion a year into the cash registers of St. Louis, yet most of these workers earn Missouri’s minimum wage of $7.35, or just above it, and are forced to rely on public assistance programs to provide for their families and gethealthcare for their children. It would take a typical St. Louis fast food worker minimum-wage full-time worker more than 1,300 years to earn as much as the CEO of YUM! Brands— which owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut— made in 2012.
The St. Louis Organizing Committee campaign, STL Can’t Survive on $7.35, seeks to put money back in the pockets of the 36,000 men and women who work hard in the St. Louis-area’s fast food chains but still can’t afford basic necessities like food, clothing, and rent. A single adult in St. Louis with a child actuallyneeds to make more than $17 an hour to get by, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator. If workers were paid more, they’d spend more, helping to get St. Louis’ economy moving again.
“Workers in fast-food jobs are no longer freckle-faced teenagers looking for some summer pocket change,” said the Rev. Martin Rafanan, director of STL $7.35. “Increasingly, fast food jobs are the only options for St. Louisans, but these workers can’t even afford to pay for rent, food and carfare. If they workers earned more, fast food workers would spend that money at local businesses here in St. Louis and help lift our economy.”