Thousands of workers in over 100 cities took to the streets, braved harsh weather, and demanded a living wage for fast food workers. In a brave act of self-determination, these workers called on the heads of chains such as McDonald’s, Jack n the Box, and Domino’s to demand a living wage of $15 and the right to unionize -an end to poverty wages of only $7-8 an hour that force many to rely on government assistance just to get by while the CEO’s such as Don Thompson rake in billions.
In St. Louis, over 200 people – fast food workers, allies, faith and community leaders, and more – went from store to store, all over St. Louis, in <30 degree temperatures to stand with their brothers and sisters fighting for higher pay. YSTL director and Jimmy John’s employee Rasheen Aldridge helped lead the procession down Lindell Blvd – from McDonald’s to Domino’s, Rally’s, Arby’s, and Jack ‘n the Box – with a sign in hand while faith leaders from the Christian and Jewish communities led the group in song in prayer.
It was truly powerful to see the hundreds of workers and allies come together and demand justice for low wage workers who struggle every day to support themselves and their families. Standing side by side with workers directly affected by the actions and retaliation of their managers, workers in other industries who share their struggle, and faith leaders work to empower communities to support each other stirred some strong emotions. Striking and marching with these workers was not just a job as a member of YSTL – it was a powerful moment where I could stand behind them as they shared their voices and stories. The activist community in St. Louis is close and strong, and it’s always the most visible during these strikes.
It was even more special considering that later on, after I had left the actions, I found out that the revolutionary Nelson Mandela had passed away. Madiba fought for the empowerment of Black South Africans and demanded justice even while imprisoned for years. His fight to end apartheid in South Africa reached seemingly impossible victories and inspires people around the world to this day. The organization representing the fast food strikers in St. Louis – friend and ally St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35 – shared a quote from Mandela that is most fitting for the day and to end this piece. May his legacy continue to inspire the youth of today to continue fighting the good fight and standing alongside their allies in the struggle. Rest in power.
Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom. -Nelson Mandela speech in London for the campaign to end poverty in the developing world, 2005.