Locals join national McDonald’s wage protests
Two men from Philadelphia will join McDonald’s employees and their supporters at protests Thursday of the fast food burger chain’s annual shareholders meeting.
Asked what he’ll be fighting for in Chicago, the answer of McDonald’s employee Justin Watson, 29, of Logan, was simple: “15 and a union,” he said.
Joined by Pastor Larry Patrick of Redeem Baptist Church in Strawberry Mansion, Watson said while waiting in the airport for his flight to Chicago on Tuesday afternoon that McDonald’s has reduced his hours — and he had to get a second job as a dishwasher at a different restaurant just to make ends meet.
“I’m trying to set the record straight for my kids so they wont have to be in the same kind of predicament I am,” Watson said, who has worked at McDonald’s since March 2012 in a variety of positions.
Pastor Patrick, who is attending the protests in support, said that McDonald’s itself would benefit from increasing the wages of its workers.
“My message would be that in an industry that is as successful as McDonald’s, we all know that a basic business practice is happier employees make for better companies,” Patrick said. “McDonald’s can be a leader not only in fast food but a leader in how employee and employer relationships can work favorably.”
The local Fight for 15 Coalition is paying Patrick and Watson’s flight fare, and they were selected as emissaries from Philadelphia due to being available and willing to go on the trip.
McDonald’s said in April that sales fell 1.7 percent and their net income fell 5 percent. Meanwhile, employees in New York, Michigan and California have filed labor lawsuits against their employer for allegedly not paying full overtime and asking them to pay additional time off the clock.
The shareholders meeting is closed to press and the public.
Watson, who is taking time off work to attend the protests, said that with a raise, he would be happy to continue working at McDonald’s.
“I enjoy what I do, but I’m disgruntled,” Watson said. “We all know what the situation is. It’s all about the money.”
Many protesters seeking a minimum wage hike from major companies like McDonald’s have called the minimum wage pay that McDonald’s offers “poverty wages.”
Pastor Patrick said that McDonald’s barely pays its workers enough to live.
“It’s not a matter of asking for a raise,” Patrick said. “The numbers speak for themselves… You’ll find that people who are not making $10.88 an hour are actually below the poverty line.”