St. Louis Joins Wave Of Fast Food Strikes

Filed under: Labor,News,The Economy,Union Organizing,Working Conditions |
St. Louis fast food strike at Jimmy Johns. Photo Ben Zucker
St. Louis fast food strike at Jimmy Johns. Photo Ben Zucker

By LAURA CLAWSON, Daily Kos Labor— May 8 and 9, fast food strikes have hit St. Louis, with workers at a Jimmy John‘s and a McDonald’s walking out Wednesday evening and workers at more restaurants Thursday morning.

New York fast food workers staged a one-day strike on April 4. Chicago fast food and retail workers did the same on April 24.

Workers in St. Louis tell stories that are familiar if you’ve followed the New York and Chicago strikes: It’s not just the low pay, though they can’t live on the $7.35 state minimum wage and are often forced to choose between rent and food.

It’s also about abusive and humiliating treatment.

Rasheen Aldridge had just finished working the lunch rush at the Jimmy John‘s in Soulard when he says his manager handed him a hand-written sign and asked that he hold it while he snapped a photo.

The sign’s message? “I made three wrong sandwiches.”

“It was humiliating,” Aldridge, 19, recalls of the incident about a month ago that he says came in retaliation for him putting eight peppers on a sandwich that called for just five and layering meat in the wrong fashion on another sandwich. “I felt that I had to pose for picture. In the fast-food industry, you can get fired at the drop of a hat.”

Workers report that their health and safety are routinely disregarded, with first aid kits not kept fully stocked to treat workers who are injured or burned on the job.

St. Louis joins New York and Chicago in waves of fast food restaurant strikes.
St. Louis joins New York and Chicago in waves of fast food restaurant strikes.

Captain D’s worker Tomecka Wilson, who’s pregnant and expecting to give birth in five weeks, told Salon that her job requires her to stay on her feet for several hours without breaks, taking orders, ringing up customers and making food—all while being yelled at by managers and customers.

She said her feet are swollen to the point that she’s stopped wearing shoes outside of work, and her doctor has told her to wear a brace.

But Wilson told Salon that she laughed off a manager’s suggestion that she take unpaid maternity leave, because the company’s low wages and insufficient hours have made that impossible to afford.

Already, she said, “I’m borrowing to make ends meet.”

St. Louis Jobs with Justice is a lead organizer of this strike, which, like those in New York and Chicago, has strong support from local unions and community groups.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor, May 09, 2013 at 07:20 am pdt

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