Baltimore Fast Food Workers Fight for Higher Wages

Low-wage workers across the nation came out and demanded a $15 an hour living wage. TRNN’s Megan Sherman spoke to protesters in the Baltimore about the day of action.

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Story Transcript

SHARON BLACK, SPOKESPERSON, PEOPLE’S POWER ASSEMBLY: Outside of unemployment, one of the biggest causes for people living in poverty in Baltimore City, and that is one out of every four persons lives in dire need in this city, is because of low wages.

MEGAN SHERMAN, TRNN CORRESPONDENT: To demand better wages for workers in a variety of low-paying jobs across the country, protesters gathered Wednesday at McKeldin Square in Baltimore to demonstrate the need for equity in pay.

COURTNEY JENKINS, CHAIR, BALTIMORE YOUNG TRADE UNIONISTS: We’re out here in support for low-wage workers. Fast food workers, retail workers, big-box retail workers like Wal-Mart. We’re out here to support them in our efforts to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and for them to be able to form and join unions.

SHERMAN: The demonstration was a part of a nationwide movement aimed at calling attention to the plight of people who work, but can’t live on what they earn. Among the targets are companies like McDonald’s and WalMart, whose employees often need public assistance for necessities like food and medical care.

Steven Ceci, who earns the majority of his income through tips, talks about the challenges that the working poor face.

STEVEN CECI, RESTAURANT EMPLOYEE/PROTESTER: I know a lot of single mothers, there are people living on their own, who can’t afford their bills. And it puts a burden on the government and whatever people need, food stamps.

SHERMAN: And low wages don’t just affect workers, but taxpayers too. Studies have shown employees working for one Wal-Mart store need up to $1.5 million in public assistance annually. It’s a number supporters of higher wages say amount to corporate welfare, and the basic flaw in a business model that doesn’t provide a living wage.

COLLEEN DAVIDSON, ORGANIZER, PEOPLE’S POWER ASSEMBLY: So for example Wal-Mart, almost all of their employees are on assistance, are on government assistance. So our tax dollars are paying Wal-Mart to pay poverty wages to their employees.

SHERMAN: The Real News reached out to McDonald’s and Wal-Mart for a statement, but McDonald’s representatives responded, stating:

“Recently McDonald’s USA announced a wage increase and paid time off for employees at its company-owned restaurants, and expanded educational opportunities for eligible employees at our restaurants. This is an important and meaningful first step as we continue to look at opportunities that will make a difference for employees.”

But that $1 per hour raise in minimum pay will only apply to workers at stores directly owned by the company, and protesters say it’s not enough.

JENKINS: The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009. So to them, I would say catch up with their top earners at McDonald’s. Make those rates match what their top earners’ rates are, as far as income.

SHERMAN: Organizers say they will continue to rally for support and protest to fight for higher wages.

This is Megan Sherman reporting with The Real News network.

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DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.