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St. Louis Fast Food Workers Join Strikes Around U.S.

Striking fast food workers in south St. Louis, MO.
Jess Jiang
St. Louis Public Radio

Many St. Louis fast food workers will walk off the job Thursday as part of a national call for a $15-an-hour wage and for union rights.

National organizers behind #StrikeFastFood say workers in more than 100 cities will strike, but St. Louis workers won’t be picketing here.

The local SHOW ME 15 campaign, created by the Mid-South Organizing committee, said local fast food workers are taking their cause on the road out of respect for Michael Brown's family and not to distract from other movements coming out of Ferguson.

Instead, local fast food workers will join picket lines in New York City, Nashville, Tn., Memphis, Tn. and Little Rock, Ark.

Ebony Williams works at a Jack in the Box in St. Louis and said plans to picket in New York. She said she can't live on the $7.50 an hour she makes. The expectant mother said neither can her family.

"I'm tired of working paycheck to paycheck and still not being able to pay all of my bills,” she said. “With $15, I'd be able to pay my bills, I'd be able to live comfortably and still have a little extra money for me."

Williams said between providing customer service and preparing meals, working in fast food is harder than most people think.

“It’s like the new age slavery: you do so much work and they don’t pay you,” Williams said. “I know they say get another job, but why should I have to? These corporations make so much money; I don’t understand why they can’t pay their workers a livable wage.”

But Williams said it isn’t just about the money.

“We’re also fighting for a union,” she said. “We work hard and we should have that protection. We would have protection from losing our job as fast. We would also have access to benefits that our job doesn’t offer.”

Williams was scheduled to work on Thursday, but she isn’t concerned that she’ll be fired. When she returns, she said she plans to continue talking with her Jack in the Box co-workers about forming a union.

The strikes come after President Barack Obama gave a Labor Day address to a crowd of union members in Milwaukee on Monday. In his speech, Obama said “America deserves a raise.”

“If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union,” he said in the speech.