St. Louis Fast-Food Workers Protest for Better Pay, Right to Organize

Categories: Restaurant News

Chipotle, for example, gets a lot of positive press for its hormone-free meats and support of sustainable farming. But working for the chain of Mexican restaurants is hardly a fiesta, says Patrick Leeper.

The 23-year-old Leeper is scheduled to work today at Chipotle's location in the Delmar Loop but instead says he plans to march with STL Can't Survive on $7.35. In his three-and-a-half years working for Chipotle, Leeper says, his pay has gone up just 40 cents -- from $8.15 to $8.45. And despite working at the restaurant full time, he has no healthcare or other benefits offered to workers in other fields.

Leeper acknowledges that protesting outside the Chipotle this afternoon (when the labor campaign plans a rally in the Delmar Loop) could anger his managers.

"The way I figure it, what is the worst thing I have to lose?" he says. "I'm forced to make sacrifices on a daily basis. My paycheck barely pays the rent. I have to ask myself, 'Do I eat or pay the bills?'"

Here's a list of organized protests planned for today:
- 8 a.m. Hardee's, 2110 Hampton Avenue (Near I-44 and Hampton)
- 10 a.m. Wendy's, 9604 Manchester Avenue
- noon Arby's, 4111 Lindell Boulevard (in front of Schnucks)
- 5 p.m. Church's Chicken, 6190 Delmar Boulevard

If successful, the fast-food workers would organize under the independent union St. Louis Organizing Committee. In addition to better pay and benefits, a union contract could also guarantee fast-food workers a more structured work schedule -- something that Aldridge at Jimmy John's would welcome.

He says he and his colleagues are routinely scheduled to work twice a day -- for a few hours during lunch and then a couple more hours in the evening -- so that the restaurant can cut labor costs and avoid giving workers a rest or a meal.

"If we work five continuous hours, we're supposed to get a break and a sandwich," says Aldridge, who works at the restaurant in between classes at St. Louis Community College. "We put up with a lot. Besides the low pay, there's just a tremendous amount of disrespect."

STL Can't Survive on $7.35 will host a rally today in the Delmar Loop beginning at 4:15 p.m.

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