St. Louis fast food workers fight discrimination

ST. LOUIS – In advance of the nationwide low-wage fast-food worker strikes planned for this Thursday, August 29 two area restaurant employees are facing retaliation from managers at local McDonald’s and Wendy’s.

Brenda Bell, a Maryland Heights McDonald’s employee, was recently taken off of the schedule, and Charles Eden, a Rockhill Wendy’s employee, hasn’t received his paycheck in over two weeks; management claims it is lost in the mail.

Obviously, these fast-food chains – among others across the nation – are attempting to intimidate low-wage activists, as they gear up for the nationwide strike. They are trying to make an example of these local strike leaders in the hopes of intimidating other would-be strikers.

However, this tactic has backfired as protesters visited both fast-food chains demanding that management address these workers issues.

At the Rockhill Wendy’s about 30 protesters occupied the front counter as community and religious leaders talked with the local manager regarding Eden’s paycheck.

They chanted, “No paycheck, No peace!” and “We can’t survive on $7.35!”

Brianna Price, a Rockhill Wendy’s employee, told the People’s World, “Management won’t give us a straight answer. They are trying to make this Charles’ fault. They claim they ‘lost’ the paycheck and they’re blaming it on him.”

Price, 20, has worked for Wendy’s for over two years and makes $7.75 an-hour, just 40 cents more than Missouri’s minimum wage of $7.35.

Price said, “We’re fighting for our rights,” health care, paid vacation, better pay, dignity and respect.

As the World interviewed her in the parking-lot she added, “I can do everything in this store. I deserve $15 and a union.”

Nationally, strikers and their supporters are demanding that low-wage fast-food workers get paid $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union without fear of retaliation from management.

According to the Rev. Martin Rafanan, “These restaurants are retaliating and being particularly vindictive.”

Rafanan, who lead the delegation into the Rockhill Wendy’s and the Maryland Height’s McDonald’s, added, “These workers, who have provided exceptional leadership to the fast food worker movement need our support.”

“We will make management understand that retaliation is not acceptable and that workers have the right to concerted action to achieve higher wages and the right to form a union without retaliation.” 

“We are demanding that Charles be paid today,” Rafanan continued.

Rafanan told the World that the McDonald’s management “essentially caved almost immediately.”

Bell, who had been working an average of about 25 hours a week, was “called in, then told she couldn’t work and then sent away,” Rafanan said.

“We addressed this issue directly,” Rafanan continued. “By being in the store and having a direct, frank conversation with the manager in front of her co-workers we got Brenda her hours reinstated. And we told the manager, ‘We’re watching.'”

“This was an empowering moment, not only for Brenda, but for her co-workers, too.”

When asked about the up coming nationwide strike Rafanan, who is also a lead organizer for STL Can’t Survive on $7.35, said, “This is what the workers have called for. It is going to be very broad geographically and lead by workers.”

He added, “Workers will be striking in at least 30 cities across the country. This is the civil rights movement of our day organized on the heels of the historic 50th Anniversary March on Washington. This is going to be huge.” 

Photo: St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35 Facebook page.





Tony Pecinovsky
Tony Pecinovsky

Tony Pecinovsky is the author of "Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA" and author/editor of "Faith In The Masses: Essays Celebrating 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA." His forthcoming book is titled "The Cancer of Colonialism: W. Alphaeus Hunton, Black Liberation, and the Daily Worker, 1944-1946." Pecinovsky has appeared on C-SPAN’s "Book TV" and speaks regularly on college and university campuses across the country.