Milwaukee, WI - Of the nation’s 200,000-plus fast food restaurants, there isn’t one that is unionized. Is there any doubt then that these same workers are also the nation’s lowest paid? For this very reason, the Raise Up Milwaukee movement has had success in its first two strikes (the first was strike was in May). The second strike occured Thursday, when workers walked off the job at several city locations, including McDonald’s, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King, and Sonic. Striking workers engaged and then educated other striking workers on why it was important for them to join a union. Not all workers walked off the job, but many did, and others were left with something to think about. The strike may have only lasted for a day, but many workers got a taste of the solidarity, protection, and respect a union will provide, planting the seeds for a more sustained effort.
Striking workers visited different restaurants around the city to provide support to other workers walking off the job, as well as to communicate to those still working the benefit of having union membership.
Striking workers and their supporters leafletted cars and passersby, went into stores to talk to workers, and even visited drive through windows of several locations to make their “$15 and a union” pitch to those working.
At one particular McDonald’s location, the Milwaukee Police Department showed up and placed several officers at the doors of the restaurant. This intimidation didn’t stop workers from walking off the job though.
The workers chanted, “Hold the burgers. Hold the fries. Make our wages super sized” to remaining workers inside the restaurant. ”I live with my parents, and I’m not making enough money. I can’t afford to go to the hospital if I’m sick” said Marielle Crowley, a six-year employee at McDonald’s. Shouldn’t everyone who works full time be afforded a living wage?
After workers walked off the job at fast food locations around the city all day long, the entire group and its supporters met up for one final rally at a KFC on Miller Park Way by the stadium. This very well attended rally was abruptly ended when the West Milwaukee Police Department started telling people to move or face arrest.
They also demanded the pick-up truck, which was providing a makeshift stage for speakers be shut down because it was on private property. The police may have shut down the speakers but they didn’t shut down the spirit of the demonstration. The group immediately spread out, organizing a picket line that stretched all the way down the block and around the corner.
(crowd chants) “Get up. Get down. Milwaukee is a union town”.
Thursday’s powerful final display of solidarity and support for the striking workers assured them, that the people of Milwaukee stand strongly behind their campaign for a living wage of $15.00/hour and the ability to organize a union without reprisal. That support will again be on display in the morning, when supporters and fellow striking workers will once again accompany them and make sure there is no retaliatory disciplinary action or intimidation levied by the boss. This important step has limited the total number of workers fired to only one nationwide and again reminds the workers that the union has their back.
Photo album with additional photos from Raise Up Milwaukee actions and Overpass Light Brigade actions can be found here.