St. Louis fast food workers join nationwide strike

June 11, 2013

St. Louis is the sixth major U.S. city in recent days where a series of strikes aimed at improving working conditions and wages for fast food and retail workers have occurred. These workers began their protests last Wednesday, and participants are expected to increase as strikes continue. Striking workers in St. Louis included employees of Jimmy John’s, Arby’s, numerous McDonald’s locations, and various other businesses.

Strikers have three demands they believe will lead to a better quality of life for those who depend on these part-time positions for their income. They include an increase of wages to $15 an hour from the $7.50 that many are currently receiving. In addition, they ask for overall improved working conditions and the right to unionize without retaliation.

Marcia McCormick explains that in St. Louis, “The focus is on higher wages and the fast-food industry.” This is different from the other cities where, “the protest encompassed wages and other working conditions and targeted low wage work in fast food, retail, and the federal government.”

These protests are ongoing in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Washington D.C., but as of now no changes have been made to working conditions for strikers in any of these areas. Community workers remain dedicated and encouraged by the fact that no strikers have been fired thus far from protests in any of the cities.

As McCormick points out, there are two reasonable sides in this dispute, the workers and the business owners, and it is unclear who holds the upper hand. “The studies on the economic effects of raising the minimum wage are split. Some studies show that a rise in wages leads to less hiring or other negative effects, while others show minimal effects.”

While there is some political support for raising the minimum wage, public support of the issue is still lacking. The effects of raising the minimum wage are an unknown that many are unwilling to risk, and while people debate the benefits of raising or maintaining the minimum wage, thousands of St. Louis residents work these low-income jobs to support themselves and their families. 

By Maureen Brady

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