Fast food workers protest on east side for higher minimum wage, right to unionize
Protestors arrested for blocking traffic
TheIndyChannel.com Staff , Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
10:51 AM, Sep 4, 2014
9:10 PM, Sep 4, 2014
Dozens of fast food workers blocked traffic on the east side Thursday as part of a national movement demanding higher pay and the right to unionize.
Protestors gathered with signs calling for a $15 wage near the McDonald's at 38th Street and Post Road.
Approximately two dozen IMPD officers were on the scene of what they described as a "peaceful protest."
Ten protesters were arrested an cited for obstructing traffic after refusing to leave the street following three warnings from police.
"It's worth standing up for your thoughts, trying to stand up for yourself. Like I said, it's not only for me, not an individual thing -- it's for the economy, for people too, people making low salary wages," McDonald's employee Christopher Leavell said.
The cited employees did not go to jail but will have to go to court.
Similar scenes happened around the country, as police in New York and Detroit handcuffed protestors blocking traffic in those cities.
The protests, which are planned by labor organizers for about 150 cities nationwide throughout Thursday, are part of the "Fight for $15" campaign. Since the protests began in late 2012, organizers have switched up their tactics every few months.
Before Thursday's protests, organizers said they planned to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to draw more attention to the cause. In the past, supporters have showed up at a McDonald's shareholder meeting and held strikes. The idea of civil disobedience arose in July when 1,300 workers held a convention in Chicago.
The movement, which is backed financially by the Service Employees International Union and others, has gained national attention at a time when the wage gap between the poor and the rich has become a hot political issue. Many fast-food workers do not make much more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which adds up to about $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week.
President Barack Obama mentioned the campaign earlier this week at a Labor Day appearance in Milwaukee.
"There's a national movement going on made up of fast food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity," Obama said, as he pushed Congress to raise the minimum wage. "If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, I'd join a union."
The National Restaurant Association, on the other hand, said in a statement that the protests are an attempt by unions to "boost their dwindling membership." The industry lobbying group said it hopes organizers will be respectful to customers and workers during the protests.
Union organizers said they expected thousands to show up to Thursday's protests around the country. Previously, turnout has been fairly minimal in many places.
McDonald's released a statement Thursday afternoon that said in part:
"McDonald's and our independent franchisees support paying our valued employees fair wages aligned with competitive marketplace. We believe that any minimum wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners of small and medium-sized businesses, like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants, is manageable."
McDonald's also noted that its franchisees set the wages in approximately 90 percent of their restaurants.