Now it’s Milwaukee’s turn: Fast food workers walk out

Photo: Occupy Riverwest

Photo: Occupy Riverwest

On May 15 in Milwaukee, hundreds of workers walked off the job at fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Old Country Buffet and Popeye’s.

The strikers from across the city, after converging with community allies at the Milwaukee County courthouse, marched in the hundreds to the Grand Avenue Mall for a mass rally that shut down Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee’s busiest street. The mall contains numerous restaurants and shops that are low-wage and hire workers for erratic, part-time weekly schedules.

Organizing with Raise Up MKE, the fast-food workers, mostly African-American, are demanding a $15-per-hour wage and the ability to organize a union without harassment or reprisals from bosses. Milwaukee is the fifth city in the last month to have a fast-food workers’ strike. Workers in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and New York have also walked off the job to fight back against the $200-billion-dollar fast-food industry.

“This is not living. I’m struggling every day I wake up. When you get paid $7.25 or $7.75, you’re always worried about money. Worrying about money is probably the most stressful thing in life,” says a striker in a video shown at the Raise Up MKE website.

On May 16, the strikers were accompanied back to work by labor-community allies.

The Milwaukee strikers are receiving support from many labor-community organizations, including Citizen Action Wisconsin, Milwaukee Inner Cities Allied for Hope, the Service Employees union, Wisconsin Jobs Now, the Bail Out the People Movement, the Occupy movement, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO and Workers World Party.

“The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO is proud to stand in solidarity with striking fast-food workers, whose actions today are calling attention to income inequality, worker exploitation, and the right to a living wage and to a union,” said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO on May 15.

For more information, to support the striking workers and to join the fight, see raiseupmke.org.