Economy
7:44 am
Fri December 6, 2013

In Sleet And Cold, Workers Continue Push for $15 Minimum Wage

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 9:12 am

 About 100 fast food workers and their supporters braved sleet squalls Thursday morning to join a nationwide protest seeking a boost in the federal minimum wage.

"I'm reminded of what happened during the Civil Rights movement," Ronald Bobo, the pastor at Westside Missionary Baptist Church, told the crowd as they gathered outside the Jack in the Box at 4111 Lindell Blvd.  It wasn't the old people who made the difference. It was the young people. You can make a difference. Don't give up, don't give in, don't be intimidated."

Workers began the day by marching through several restaurants in Midtown before spreading out in groups across the region. Many, like Krystal McLemore, wore black sweatshirts stenciled with "Show Me 15" for the $15 minimum wage protestors are seeking.

McLemore brings home about $1,000 a month from her job running the drive-thru at Taco Bell - not enough, she says, to support her, her son, and unborn daughter.

"It’s either a light bill, or get my son clothes for the winter, or make sure my rent is paid," she said.

McLemore has participated in almost every protest since May. Though her wages have yet to increase, she believes companies are starting to listen.

Pressure from workers will continue to be important, said Martin Rafanan, the community director of St. Louis Can't Survive on $7.35. But he said organizers are seeking other leverage points as well.

"Certainly there’s a lot of wage theft and criminal activity in low-age situations, and we are pursuing that very strongly," he said. "And then thirdly, we have yet to really get to a place where we ask consumers to support us."

St. Louis was one of the first cities to participate in the campaign for a higher minimum wage. Rafanan says organizers here have since lent support work workers throughout Missouri and other states.

Listen to NPR's Chris Arnold explore the impact of a so-called "living wage in Los Angeles.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Copyright 2013 KWMU-FM. To see more, visit http://www.stlpublicradio.org.