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Fast food workers rally for higher wages

Demonstrators protested for more money near JMH

Erick Johnson | 5/22/2014, 9 a.m.
Local fast food workers protested for higher minimum wages at a rally near Jackson Memorial Hospital. Photo by Erick Johnson

Fast-food workers in Miami joined other demonstrations in major cities across the U.S. and the world demanding significantly higher minimum wages to live comfortable like many middle-class Americans.

The workers protested under pouring rain as they walked north to afrom McDonald’s near Jackson Memorial Hospital to a Wendy's on 7th Avenue to 20th Street The workers demanded a minimum wage hike from $7.93 an hour to $15.

One of them, Rebecca Ray, protested while wearing her work uniform. Ray said she is struggling to survive despite working a total of 43 hours at a Wendy’s in Miami and Overtown. Ray said she is unable to pay her bills making less than $8 an hour. Despite speaking to television news organizations, Ray said she is not afraid of any retribution that may come from her participation in the demonstration.

“I’m tired,” she said. “I need to stand up for my rights.”

 “Yesterday, I went on strike to send a message: our movement for higher wages and a union is growing across the country and the world. Fast food companies are facing growing pressure because every day more and more workers, such as myself, are standing up,” said Oscar Rivera, 23, a student at Miami-Dade College who supports himself and his family in Miami while also helping to support impoverished family living in Nicaragua. “These companies are making huge profits while we struggle to get by – that’s simply unacceptable. We will continue to fight for $15 an hour and for the right to organize without being intimidated. And we will keep growing and fighting until we win.”

Workers spoke out in front of the Burger King at 901 Arthur Godfrey Road in Miami Beach, gathered and protested near the McDonald’s at 901 N.W. 17th Street in Miami and concluded the day of action, protesting outside a Wendy's in the Overtown area.

“Fast-food corporations need to do the right thing and raise worker's wages,” said Jeanette Smith, Executive Director of South Florida Interfaith Workers Justice. “Putting more money into worker’s pockets will help lift up all of our communities, particularly ones struggling in poverty.”

In the US, workers went on strike from Raleigh to Los Angeles at major fast-food restaurants including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC. They held the first-ever fast-food protests in Miami, Opelika (Ala.), Orlando, Philadelphia, Sacramento and San Antonio.

Protests were also held in three-dozen countries, including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Malawi, Morocco, New Zealand, Panama, and the United Kingdom.

San Diego fast-food workers led hundreds of religious and community supporters through a Burger King drive-thru Thursday morning, chanting, praying and holding signs that read, "Strike for Better Pay" and "Poverty Jobs Hurt San Diego." 

State legislators joined striking workers outside a Charleston, SC Burger King and a McDonald's in New York City. And in Los Angeles, the Rev. Al Sharpton braved 100-degree temperatures to join protesters on a strike line last Thursday afternoon.

But seven states have passed legislation this year to raise the minimum wage. Four have approved increases to at least $10.10 an hour — Connecticut, Maryland, Hawaii and Vermont. Three others — Minnesota, West Virginia and Delaware — have passed smaller increases.

In Florida last month, Democratic lawmakers tried but failed to persuade Republicans to take take up the issue on the House floor.

Conservatives say a higher minimum wage would harm small businesses and decrease the number of entry-level jobs.

“It’s a debate that’s being had everywhere but Florida, “said Sen. Dwight Bullard, who led the charge. “Republicans are blocking it.”

 A bill, backed by President Obama, to raise the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by late 2016, has stalled in Congress due to Republican opposition.

"Where Congress is failing to take action to address inequality, these workers are leading the way," said Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-MN). "Their fight for $15 and a union is a shining light that will ultimately benefit all workers in the country and help lift up our economy.

It's clear this movement isn't going to stop until fast-food companies listen to the voices of these workers, who are struggling to support families on as little as $7.25 an hour."