“We have the right to be paid more, just like doctors, just like lawyers,” a Madison fast food worker said on Wednesday. Lunch hour business took a hit, on a national day of action for fast food wage hikes. For the third consecutive year, fast food outlets along Madison’s East Washington Avenue were the scene of “Fight For $15” rallies. The atmosphere outside the Burger King restaurant was almost festive, with a band playing, but things grew tense once protestors went inside and attempted to persuade counter workers to join them.
They chanted “come on out, we got your back,” but none of the Burger King workers left. Still, Neil Rainford, a staff representative with AFSCME in Madison, thinks the now three-year-old movement is yielding results. “The fact that multinational corporations are responding to this, suggests . . . there is some pressure they’re feeling,” he said.
According to Lisa Lucas with Wisconsin Jobs Now, which coordinated Wednesday’s action in Madison, 1 worker walked out at McDonalds, 4 at Taco Bell, and 3 at Little Ceasars, where protests were held prior to the Burger King stop. In addition, she said 21 workers did not report for their shifts. The workers are protected under federal labor law, and Lucas said they can be provided with support from Fight for $15 organizers when they do return to work.
“The fact that multinational corporations are responding to this suggests that . . . there is some pressure that they’re feeling,” Rainsford said. And Tim Dowling, who identified himself as a former manager at the East Washington Burger King, said the impact would definitely be reflected in the day’s receipts.
“That car has been there for 35 to 40 minutes,” Dowling said, gesturing to the motionless line at the drive-up ordering station. “It’s making a huge difference, because there’s no business coming in. They do $600 at lunch. No business.”
Dowling, who said that he was terminated after going to bat for a worker owed back pay, said it’s not easy working fast food. “They change people’s’ schedules without telling them. If they don’t come in early or they won’t stay late, they’re basically disciplined.”
The Fight for $15 movement appears to be growing. “It seems like this year there are more strikers than last year and then the year before,” noted AFSCME’s Rainford. “Also there’s momentum growing in terms of the numbers of cities.” Other Wisconsin protests took place in Milwaukee and Janesville.