DEARBORN, Mich. - Three weeks ago, 400 fast food workers across Metro Detroit shocked their employers by walking off the job demanding a living wage of $15.00 an hour. The "D-15" and Good Jobs Now campaign is not letting up. On Friday, that campaign was taken to the front door of the Dearborn Walmart.
Good Jobs Now organizer Pastor W. J. Rideout of All God's People Church in Detroit said Walmart CEO Mike Duke makes between $8,000 and $9,000 an hour, versus the workers getting $7.40.
But Rideout said the "kicker" is, people working at Walmart are not given 40-hour weeks. "They get between 15 and 30 hours a week, bringing their earnings to only $6,000 to $11,000 a year."
He considers the $7.40 minimum wage a beneath-poverty "slave wage."
It's not enough to support a family said 52-year-old Detroiter Dwight Jarrett.
Jarrett said the economy is growing poorer and is "hard on everybody, even some of the middle class."
As an example, he said, look at gas prices, currently $4.20 a gallon in Michigan. "You might be able to pay for gas maybe two days out of the week," he said. "Later that month, you pay the rent. After you take all that and other things, you can't get to work because you don't have money."
Jarrett said he believes in trickle-up, not trickle-down: "Take care of the little people and the little people will take care of the big people. The whole community can grow, not just Walmart.
"Walmart makes too much money to not support its workers," he added.
The fight is "personal" for 58-year-old Velma Cornelius. She wants her three children to "be able to get out there and take care of their families. You can't do that on $7.40 an hour.
It's frustrating and hard, she said. "When they do find employment, they don't get enough hours to pay their bills."
Cornelius is not one to give up. She said, "We are fighting for a great purpose, for people to survive and be part of the economy again. Not just here in Detroit, but the whole country."
It is that kind of determination that causes Rideout to say the campaign will "absolutely" continue. "It is like a fire that starts in the forest, spreading from Detroit, Dearborn, Westland, to all over Michigan and America - and on and on and on," the pastor said.
Photo: From left to right, Velma Cornelius, the Rev. W. J. Rideout and Dwight Jarrett stop for a photo before heading to Walmart rally (John Rummel/PW).