Fast food workers in MN protest as part of Fight for $15 movement


Fast food workers in Minnesota are joining with colleagues across the country in protesting working conditions and low wages Thursday.

The protest in the Twin Cities, organized by the group Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, is coming in two waves:

The first came at 5:30 a.m., with workers gathering outside a McDonald's in St. Paul. On Thursday evening, it'll be Minneapolis' turn, with employees protesting at a McDonald's there from 5-8 p.m.

They're also standing in solidarity with the 36,000 Verizon workers who walked off the job, 15 Now Minnesota says.

At least three state lawmakers were there this morning to show support in St. Paul – Reps. John Lesch, Raymond Dehn, and Frank Hornstein.

The minimum wage in Minnesota right now for large employers is $9 an hour – that'll jump to $9.50 an hour come August 1.

What the protests are about

The Twin Cities demonstrations are tied to a national movement that goes by #FightFor15.

The group organized a day of protest for Thursday, in which they say hundreds of cities around the world are set to participate (there are five different demonstrations planned in Chicago, for example)

The workers are asking for:

  • Pay of $15 an hour
  • Union rights
  • Fair scheduling practices
  • Paid sick/leave time

One of the group's arguments is that low-paying jobs are actually costing taxpayers billions of dollars, which the Washington Post included a column on last fall. The study, which came out of Berkeley, found that workers at big businesses (including Wal-Mart and McDonald's) get paid so little, that they need held from government programs to get by.

All together, this combination of food stamps, Medicaid and other programs are costing $153 billion each year – and since these programs are government-funded, that means they're being paid for with people's taxes.

One contributor to Fortune, however, disagreed with the argument that taxpayers are essentially subsidizing big companies, and letting those businesses pay low wages while the public foots the bill. He said if those big companies cut all their jobs tomorrow, the welfare spending would go up for taxpayers, not down – meaning that $153 billion is a subsidy to low-wage earners, not a subsidy to corporations.

Pew Research found more than 1.5 million food service workers make minimum wage or less, the highest number of any industry.

More on the Twin Cities

The City of Minneapolis has considered a plan that would require employers to follow fair scheduling rules, and provide compensation for workers who see their shift changed last-minute. A full vote on the plan was shelved last fall, with a working group put together to suss out the details.

That Workplace Regulations Partnership Groupput out a report last month suggesting 48 hours minimum of paid time off per year for most employers. There was also a study commissioned to look at the impact of a $12 or $15 minimum wage.

St. Paul began looking at similar measures earlier this year.

Tweets from St. Paul

Here are some tweets from St. Paul this morning:

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