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Memphis fast-food workers determined to keep pushing in campaign for higher wages, union rights

fastfoodworkers 600Church's Chicken manager Daniel May seemed pleased with the turnout and what he viewed as the unity that existed among participants in a Memphis reflection of widespread strikes and protests at fast-food restaurants on Thursday.

"It's like this very positive vibe-to know that you're fighting for justice, and you're in that fight together. You have a special camaraderie with that person."

Memphis fast food workers walked off their jobs to campaign for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. Organizers say the move part of a "wave of strikes and protests" in 150 cities across the U.S. and 33 additional countries on six continents.

photo 2-2-2May was encouraged by the number of restaurant patrons who came outside to show support.

"I feel like we need a lot more people like that and the change will really come quicker," said May, who he is "100 percent positive" that the effort will achieve its goals.

"We're not going to stop fighting until it happens," he said.

IMG 8019The Memphis protest involved McDonald's, Church's, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Burger King and KFC. Striking workers and community members took over the lobbies of three McDonalds stores, chanting, "We work we sweat, put fifteen on our check" and playing drums.

"We can't support our families on the wages we're paid. We can barely keep a roof over our heads. It's not fair that I have a job where I work hard and still have to depend on government assistance to pay my bills," Daisha Mims, a striking McDonald's worker, said.

"We won't stop until we get what we deserve, $15/hr and a union," Mims said.

Emilie Bowman, a United Methodist missionary at Workers Interfaith Network, said, "It's morally indefensible that workers have to raise families on poverty wages while McDonald's makes billions of dollars in profit every year.

"The fast food giants are making enormous profit while keeping tens of thousands of workers in poverty; the Memphis community is saying that is unacceptable," said Bowman. "We stand in solidarity with the striking workers."

McDonald's employee Ashley Cathey also was confident that the goal she has embraced is going to be achieved.

"I think we're doing an excellent job. I think what we said to them today put a couple of things on their mind about life. If it didn't, we're just going to keep trying until we get our point across," Cathey said.

The fast-food workers campaign tracks back to New York City in November 2012 when 200 fast-food workers walked off their jobs demanding $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation.

Campaign organizers and supporters now talk in terms of a movement that also is focused on challenging the notion that workers mostly are teenagers looking for pocket change. A release in support of the campaign says, "Today's workers are mothers and fathers struggling to raise children on wages that are too low.

"And they're showing the industry that if it doesn't raise pay, it will continue to be at the center of the national debate on what's wrong with our economy. A study released last month by the National Employment Law Project showed that the recovery has created far more lower-paying jobs than higher-paying ones.:

Michael Evangelist, a policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, said fast food
is driving much of the job growth at the low end and the gains there are absolutely phenomenal.

"If this is the reality, if these jobs are here to stay and are going to be the core of our economy, we need to make them better by raising pay."

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