Fast-food cooks and cashiers marched on McDonald’s stores and restaurant industry lobbyists headquarters on Thursday, just four days before a state law passed by Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens and GOP state lawmakers rolls back the minimum wage in St. Louis and Kansas City from $10/hour to $7.70 on Aug. 28.
“Corrupt politicians in Jefferson City may steal our raises, but they can’t stop us from speaking out and going on strike for the right to join a union that can take on the greedy companies cutting our pay,” said Ontario Pope, who made just $8/hour working at McDonald’s before St. Louis raised the minimum wage. “We’re not going to back down and we’re not going to give up – and this Labor Day we’re going to be louder than ever.”
St. Louis fast-food workers occupied a McDonald’s store that has told workers it intends to cut pay, sitting on the floor and refusing to leave. Kansas City fast-food workers waged a “die-in” on the doorstep of the Missouri Restaurant Association (MRA) that pushed hard for the state wage rollback. Workers in both cities announced that they would join a national strike on Labor Day to demand $15/hour and union rights.
More than 100 St. Louis businesses have already vowed to honor the $10/hour minimum wage even after Aug. 28, while the Kansas City Council and the Kansas City Star editorial board have both recently urged employers in their city to do the same.
St. Louis workers stand to lose as much as $400/month from their paychecks when the rollback goes into effect. The St. Louis minimum wage ordinance was first enacted in 2015, but was held up for two years by lawsuits from business lobbyists, depriving workers of nearly $35 million in pay according to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project. Workers eventually prevailed at the state Supreme Court and received their raise to $10/hour in May, but weeks later GOP state lawmakers passed a law nullifying local minimum wage increases and Gov. Gov. Greitens allowed it to become law.
In response, low-wage workers, clergy, elected officials, small businesses and community leaders launched the “Save the Raise” campaign, urging employers to reject the minimum wage cut and continue honoring the city’s current $10 an hour wage floor.
The Kansas City minimum wage hike, which takes effect today, was approved by voters at the ballot box by a greater than 2-1 margin earlier this month. It would have gradually raised the city minimum wage to $15/hour. Cooks and cashiers in Kansas City said the pay cuts will cost lives, pointing to their own members who have died because they couldn’t afford basic needs like health care. The workers gathered at the porch of the Missouri Restaurant Association, one of the chief architects of the state bill cutting workers’ pay, and lay down for four minutes for a mock “die-in.” They also eulogized McDonald’s worker Myrna De Los Santos, a Kansas City Fight for $15 leader who died last year because she couldn’t afford to treat her diabetes.
“Workers in this city are literally dying because fast-food companies and the politicians they have bought and paid for are holding down our pay,” said Mike Hayes, a 30-year-old McDonald’s worker and Stand Up KC leader who participated in the protest. “But this fight isn’t over. It’s just getting started. We’ve already won $15 for more than 20 million working people across the country, and we won’t stop until everyone in Missouri and across the country is paid at least $15 and has the right to join a union that gives them a voice on the job.”
St. Louis and Kansas City were among the first cities to join the Fight for $15, a national movement that has lifted pay for nearly 20 million workers across the country since it was launched by striking fast-food workers in Nov. 2012.