QSR worker protests spread to DC, shareholders' meetings

May 23, 2013

First New York, then Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee. Now Washington D.C.

Earlier this week, hundreds of workers walked off the job in protest of low wages and working conditions in the Capital City. The Washington D.C. strike featured federal workers, including those in foodservice, and was facilitated by Good Jobs Nation. It included calls to President Obama to ensure contractors pay a living wage and improve working conditions for all those employed by federal dollars.

"All I want is to be able to support my family, but I can't even afford to pay my rent on $9.00 an hour," said Ana Salvador, who has worked at the McDonald's at the National Air and Space Museum for 10 years. "The company I work for makes big profits thanks to taxpayers. It's not right that I work hard every day to serve the public, and I have to choose between taking the Metro to work and paying the electric bill."

Following the strikes, congressional leaders, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN-5), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-7), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), held a Congressional hearing to investigate and improve working conditions for the nation's largest low-wage workforce.

Federal procurement doubled in the years between 1996 and 2009, and continues to represent an enormous and profitable industry. In 2012, the U.S. government paid private companies $446.5 billion to provide goods and services in the United States, according to USASpending.gov.

From the streets to the boardroom

Additionally, McDonald's and Wendy's workers are taking their protests from the streets to the boardroom today, calling for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation directly to the companies' annual shareholders' meetings.

McDonald's workers from Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and Milwaukee came together in Chicago early this morning at the Rock N Roll McDonald's. They are taking their action to the company's shareholders' meeting in nearby Oak Brook, Ill.

In New York City, workers, elected officials and community supporters will protest outside of the Wendy's shareholders' meeting at the Sofitel Hotel in Midtown.

Protesters ask Wendy's to join Fair Food Program

Today's shareholder meeting protests aren't just about raising the minimum wage and forming unions. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) — a farmworker organization — will host a press conference outside of Wendy's shareholders' meeting to denounce the company's refusal to join the Fair Food Program (FFP), a corporate social responsibility program for Florida tomato pickers.

According to a news release, Wendy's is the only of the nation's five largest quick-service chains to reject the FFP, which has won the praise of the White House and the United Nations for its success in addressing farm labor abuses. Chipotle recently endured similar protests and ended up joining after a six-year debate.

The Fair Food Program is a partnership among farm workers, Florida tomato growers, and 11 leading food corporations. By committing to the FFP, participating corporations demand more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers and purchase exclusively from those who meet these higher standards, among them required time clocks, health and safety protections, and a zero-tolerance policy for slavery and sexual harassment. Participating corporations also pay a "penny-per-pound" premium, which is passed down through the supply chain and paid out to workers by their employers. Since 2011, buyers have paid $10 million into the FFP.

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