Standing with fast-food workers on strike for a better quality of life

At 6 a.m. Dec. 4, I was in Hardee's, chanting, "Fifteen and a union" and "Come on out. We've got your back." A hundred of us -- mostly young, African-American fast-food workers who were on strike -- filled the store. It was raining outside, and the police took a long time to come. When they arrived, we filed out promptly -- and the rain stopped! It was cold and wet, but we had energy.

Then at 5:30 a.m. Dec. 5, I was at the union organizing offices to walk a fast-food worker back to work. I went with a Service Employees International Union business agent, Mike. We had a paper to hand to the manager, saying the one-day strike was legal and that the employee should not be fired or his hours reduced because of the one-day walkout. The manager took our paper cheerfully, and the worker was back at work behind the counter.

If every customer in the United States paid just 25 cents more per visit, McDonald's could pay a living wage, health insurance, paid vacation and retirement benefits -- and still keep its $6 billion profits. In St. Louis alone, there are 36,000 fast-food jobs. We taxpayers subsidize those salaries through the earned income tax benefit, food stamps, health care and by covering their share of taxes for public services. Surely a small price increase for hamburgers would be a better way to go.

The national strategy is to bring community supporters like me together with striking fast-food workers. If we want our community to be a better place for everyone, we need to work together to make it better.

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