In response to class action lawsuits in three states against the McDonald's Corporation that involves wage theft, St. Louis-area fast food workers will protest the hamburger chain in solidarity with their colleagues on Tuesday.
The lawsuits involve 27 plaintiffs and include several allegations, including being forced to work off the clock, were not fully paid for overtime and break periods, and in some cases, the pay records were falsified by the employer.
In Michigan and New York, one of the complaints from McDonald's employees is that the cost of uniform upkeep, for which they are not reimbursed, makes their wages fall below the minimum wage.
In St. Louis, employees say they have faced similar situations, so they plan on picketing at the McDonald's on Hampton Ave. at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Shnette Hooker, a 43-year-old fast food worker in St. Louis County, describes two incidents in which she claims she was paid less than what she was supposed to get.
"At the end of my shift one of the cash register drawers was missing $20. My manager made me pay out of pocket for it, even though I wasn't the only one on my drawer that day," says Shnette Hooker, 43, a McDonald's worker in St. Louis county, adding: "One time, after clocking out for the day, my manager made me restock items instead of letting me go - work that I am not getting paid for."
The St. Louis protest is being held by Show Me 15, a local organization that advocates for a $15 per hour wage for fast food workers. The group is part of the national movement that is backed by the Service Employees International Union and coordinated with help from the political communications firm BerlinRosen.
Fast food chains and big box retailers such as Walmart have been heavily criticized over the past two years for providing extremely low wages for employees despite making hefty profits. These wages are not enough to lift one's self out of poverty, worker advocates argue, and workers need government assistance to offset their miniscule wages. In effect, the low wages allow for these companies to have a subsidized workforce at the taxpayers' expense.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has been advocating raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour while clothing retailer The Gap has announced it will raise wages of its employees to $10 per hour in 2015. And Walmart has said it is "looking into" the idea of raising their employees' wages to around $10 per hour, although the world's largest retailer has not made any promises.
However, most fast food and retail giants have done the same thing as McDonald's: be pretty much quiet. This, despite the attention fast food workers' plight has received and even Congress getting in on the action.
In a December 2013 letter from 53 members of Congress addressed to McDonald's CEO Don Thompson, the representatives wrote: "Too many hard-working families are being forced to depend on poverty-level wages. Paying fair wages and putting more spending money in the hands of consumers will strengthen our economy."
For St. Louis-area fast-food workers like Hooker, this explains the protest.
"That's why we're fighting for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation," she says.
See also: Show Me $15 Fast Food Workers Rally
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