Hold the Burgers, Hold the Fries, Make Our Wages Supersized
At high noon, October 3, 2018, over a hundred underpaid, fast food workers, their families, union supporters, and community members including Greater Milwaukee Greens marched on a Milwaukee McDonald's to demand a $15/hr minimum wage.
With the Fight for $15, many of us had demonstrated there over the last couple of years. We exposed the injustice of McDonald's making billions of dollars in profit while the people who do the real work are struggling to survive. This time would be different.
For two days before then, I had trained dozens of fast-food workers in the culture and discipline of non-violent civil disobedience. Based upon Dr. Martin Luther King's philosophy, six basic elements and practice of non-violence, we all committed to King's Covenant of Non-Violence that he used in the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama Campaign and is used today by the Campaign Non-Violence.
Becoming an affinity group in support of each other and the points of unity, we trained in the components of risking arrest, discussed the arrest process and legal ramifications with attorneys, and practiced being handled and handcuffed tightly with zip ties by the police. We were ready in our culture of peace.
Marching on the McDonald's, we blocked the drive-through with cars and the main entrance with our bodies while more than a hundred of us chanted, "We work. We sweat…Put $15 on our checks! If we don't get it, Shut It Down!"
Rallying at the main door in front of local television and radio, fast-food workers testified as to their struggles with not only minimum wage but also health care, work injuries, sexual harassment and lack of promotion especially into management.
As reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and USA Today, police arrived shortly after the shutdown and a sergeant approached one of the protest organizers.
"The 'Man' has closed it down," a sergeant said, referring to the restaurant management. "You guys are peaceful enough. We're good."
The officers then left. This was a different day and we weren't done.
As planned to increase the public's education, we peacefully 'took the street.' Blocking traffic safely, we sat in the street, arms-locked, continuing our statement. This sparked the return of the police who arrested 23 of us to the on-going chants of "If we don't get it…Shut It Down!"
Greater Milwaukee Greens, George Paz Martin and Brian Verdin, former Congressional Candidate, were arrested while Co-Chair Greg Banks and others provided support.
This non-violent civil disobedience resulted in the best coverage ever by all of the major television networks, the statewide Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and USA Today. A great photograph of the arrests was most importantly accompanied by the testimony of fast-food workers as to their struggles for a minimum $15/hr, educating the public the public more on this issue.
As one of the workers demanding higher wages and union rights said, "Fast food companies have more than enough money to pay the workers when the CEOs of these corporations, McDonald's for example…make $10,000 an hour."
The resultant corporate and social media from this non-violent civil disobedience was huge in educating the public to affect the corporation and the politicians toward real change.
This action was well worth the hours of training, the pain of the zip tie-handcuffs, the up to five hours in jail and a ticket for obstructing traffic.
Since 2012, the Fight for Fifteen Movement has won raises for 22 million people across the country – including 10 million who are on their way to $15/hr – all because workers came together and acted like a union.
Here in Milwaukee, the NBA Bucks' new home, the Fiserv Forum, has committed to $15/hr minimum wage for food service workers by 2023.
Fast-food workers, home health aides, child care teachers, airport workers, adjunct professors, retail employees and underpaid workers in over 300 cities on six continents have joined together to demand a $15/hr and union rights in the Fight for $15. Solidarity!
The author, George Paz Martin is a Green Party leader, activist, trainer and community member in support of the Fight for $15.