Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Protesters in Nearly 200 Cities, Including St. Louis, Demand Higher Fast-Food Wages

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Protesters in Nearly 200 Cities, Including St. Louis, Demand Higher Fast-Food Wages

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * Fast-food workers and their supporters marched Thursday for higher pay in nearly 200 cities, including St. Louis, where they briefly took over a restaurant during the breakfast rush and shut down Tucker Boulevard a few hours later.

The marchers were part of a national "Fight for $15" push to get fast-food chains to pay workers at least $15 an hour.

Protesters first met in the morning near the Hardee's at 2110 Hampton Avenue. After about 15 minutes inside the restaurant, the crowd of about 100 moved onto the front lot and lined the busy street, where some passing motorists honked in approval.

At the Hardee's, Carlos Robinson, 23, pounded on the counter, shoulder to shoulder with other sign-waving protesters. They shouted over a man trying to order a breakfast sandwich. "We want change, and we ain't talkin' pennies," they chanted.

A manager and a woman helping with store security kept reminding the protesters to not walk on the tile floor behind the counter. A handful of workers in the back, scurrying to fill drive-through orders, laughed and smiled at the protesters.

"Come on, Nate," protesters shouted, trying to urge a friend working there to walk off the job. Nate did not join the protest.

While inside the restaurant, the protesters paused for a few minutes to raise their hands and have a moment of silence for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old man fatally shot by police on Aug. 9 in Ferguson. Brown's death sparked protests here and nationwide.

After break, the protesters reconvened at Kiener Plaza in downtown, where they marched to the other side of the Old Courthouse on Fourth Street.

"We all struggling because they want to pay us $7.50 and you can't raise nobody on $7.50," said Ronald Smith, who said he makes $8 an hour at a gas station. "You got people working at $7.75 and your business is a $2 billion, $3 billion business. Come on!"

The union-backed actions are part of an effort launched in 2012 to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour from $7.25, where it has held since 2009.

St. Louis organizers, who said they were affiliated with Show-Me 15, the Missouri offshoot of the Fight for $15, would not comment. Organizers with the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers were present at the march.

Tommy Lynch, a custodian in the Ritenour School District and SEIU member, said he came out to show support for marchers. He used to work in fast food and has family that still does.

"I had two fast-food jobs going at the same time," he said, adding that many people rely on it for their sole source of income. "It's not part time like it used to be."

About 100 protesters marched down Market Street to Tucker Boulevard, where police allowed them to block traffic near City Hall for a few minutes. A few protesters yelled vulgarities at officers. …

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