Arrests in Center City fast-food protest

Justin Watson, 29, of North Philadelphia, protests for higher wages at fast-food restaurants in Philadelphia on September 4, 2014. Watson and other protesters were arrested after they refused to move from the intersection of Broad and Arch streets. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Justin Watson, 29, of North Philadelphia, protests for higher wages at fast-food restaurants in Philadelphia on September 4, 2014. Watson and other protesters were arrested after they refused to move from the intersection of Broad and Arch streets. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer ) (David Maialetti)
Posted: September 06, 2014

Nine fast-food workers were among 11 people arrested Thursday for blocking traffic on Arch Street near a Center City McDonald's, part of a national campaign pushing large restaurant chains to pay workers at least $15 an hour and seeking greater attention for income disparities.

Dozens were reported arrested at similar rallies planned in about 150 cities Thursday. Organizers of the "Fight for $15" campaign said they planned civil disobedience to highlight an effort that has made little headway since it began with a small New York strike after Thanksgiving in 2012.

Philadelphia organizers said about 40 workers delivered "strike notices" to restaurant managers Thursday, and left their jobs or missed scheduled shifts at McDonald's and other chains.

One was Taleya Ewell, 19, who said she skipped a shift at a South Philadelphia Popeye's. Ewell said she earns $7.25 an hour at the restaurant - both the Pennsylvania and U.S. minimum - and isn't given a break during a seven-hour shift unless she clocks out.

"They take 15 minutes out of our pay for a break," she said.

Other workers at the protest said they made little more than minimum even as "crew trainers" - employees who direct others in procedures but aren't classified as managers.

Alisha Lee, 30, of North Philadelphia, said she earns $9.45 an hour as a full-time crew trainer at a Bensalem McDonald's, up from $8.25 an hour when she started five years ago. She was off Thursday but said she came downtown to support the strikers.

Lee said that after paying for basics such as rent, transportation, and phone service, she has little left from her biweekly paycheck to put aside for unusual expenses.

"I have no dependents, but at the end of the day I'm left with $50 to my name," Lee said. "It's a little bit of a struggle if you don't have anybody in your corner helping you."

Other protesters said they struggled to support children on wages that are at or near the minimum and that have mostly lagged inflation. In 2014 dollars, the federal minimum wage topped $9 for much of the 1960s and '70s, according to an Oregon State University analysis.

"I'm 33. Where's my American dream?" asked Angela Owens, who said she earns less than $12 an hour working 45 hours a week as a home health assistant even with a bachelor's degree and credit toward a master's.

"I need $15 an hour so I can get off public assistance," said Owens, who has three children and hopes to become a social worker. "I want $15 an hour so I can have a better life."


jgelles@phillynews.com

215-854-2776 @jeffgelles

www.inquirer.com/consumer

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|