Demonstrators protest fast-food wages

Dec. 05, 2013 @ 04:58 PM

As part of planned demonstrations slated to be held around the country Thursday, activists and fast-food restaurant workers gathered in front of a McDonald’s Corp. restaurant on North Roxboro Street in Durham to call for higher wages.

Chanting “we can’t survive on $7.25” and “forward together, not one step back,” they walked from the restaurant to the site of where a 1957 sit-in was held in protest of segregation.
There were about 90 people at one point in the demonstration, including fast-food workers, community activists, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, as well as students from Carolina Friends School.
This was the third demonstration for higher wages held since the summer. The group is calling for a $15-an-hour wage and the right to form a union without retaliation.
“We’re overworked and underpaid,” said Brittany Chavis, a cashier at Burger King who said she traveled from Greensboro to participate in Thursday’s demonstration in Durham.
She said she’s worked for nine years in fast-food restaurants. As a mother of four, she said it’s hard to help support her family on $7.25 per hour. Right now, she said her husband is paying most of the bills.
Joshua McClain is a junior from Carolina Friends School. He said his American literature teacher has an interest in social activism, and the class is studying oppression.
“I think that everyone has a right to a wage that they can live on,” he said.
Raleigh resident and retired school teacher Wanda Schraber was a participant in the Moral Mondays demonstration in Raleigh this summer. The demonstrations were in protest of legislative changes being made by the N.C. General Assembly.
“I know you can’t support a family on these wages,” she said Thursday.
Speaking to the group gathered in front of the sit-in sign at the end of their walk, State Sen. Earline Parmon, a Democrat from Winston-Salem, spoke against corporations paying low wages to employees, forcing them to rely on government benefits.
“We are (prepared) to stand here today to say ‘hold the burger, hold the fries, super-size the wages,” she said.
In a statement, McDonald’s USA said company restaurants offer advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits, and it also invests in training and professional development.
“Outside groups are traveling to McDonald’s and other outlets to stage rallies,” the company said of Thursday’s demonstrations.
Scott DeFife, executive vice president for policy and government affairs for the National Restaurant Association, called the demonstrations a “coordinated (public relations) campaign engineered by national labor groups.” He also said the restaurant industry has been one of the few sectors to create jobs during the recession.
“Dramatic increases in a starting wage such as those called for in these rallies will challenge that job growth history, increase prices for restaurant meals, especially in the value segments, and lead to fewer jobs created,” he said.