Columbia joins national movement for better fast-food worker wages

Aug 29, 2013

"Can't survive on $7.35  -- can't survive on $7.35." 

That was one of the rallying cries this morning at a gathering outside the Hardee's restaurant on South Providence Road.  Community members came together as part of a national movement for better wages for workers. Specifically, today's movement focused on fast-food workers. The movement is pushing for a minimum wage of $15 an hour, up from the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and the Missouri minimum wage of $7.35. 

A few Hardee's workers spoke and shared their experiences, and the desire for a wage they could live on. 

"I'd like to give Jesus thanks and praise. I'd also like to state my case," Dehon Duff began. He's been working at Hardee's for almost four years. "I also feel that we deserve $15 an hour - we work very hard. I feel that we deserve full-time schedules. I also feel that we deserve benefits, to take care of our families."

He also said he thinks workers should have the right to form a union without intimidation.

Several members of Grass Roots Organizing (GRO) turned out to show their support. So did seven clergy from Missouri Faith Voices. 

For Rev. Molly Housh Gordon of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, the wage issue is about dignity. 

"I believe that God created us all worthy and dignified, and my faith tells me that," she said. "And when we are paying poverty wages to hard workers, then we're not really living into that vision of dignity and worth."

For Pastor Timothy Carson of Broadway Christian Church, this is a justice issue, and a moral one. And he said better wages for fast-food workers are just a start.

"All people in society of substandard wages need to have those strengthened," he said. "And those who have means, like myself, should advocate for them."

He added that those who have profit should be willing to increase what they pay, so workers aren't forced into public assistance programs. 

"One of the great ironies of this is that fast food workers are living on food stamps," he said.  

Around lunchtime, the group reconvened outside the Taco Bell on Nifong Boulevard, next to McDonald's. There, they received honks of support from passing cars.

At both Hardee's and Taco Bell, they called for workers on duty to come out and join them. "Workers, we got your back," they shouted. At Hardee's, two workers stepped outside the door for a moment. At Taco Bell, no workers came outside.

When the event ended, the group paraded down the street chanting that they would be back -- and stronger.

Even with the seriousness of the issue, there was room for creativity with the cause -- check out the "Corporate Shuffle" below. 


This story was produced in partnership with Columbia Faith & Values.