(UPDATE) In Oak Brook, Illinois, the corporate home of McDonald's, a few thousand protesters today called on the fast food giant to raise pay for its workers, a day ahead of the fast-food chain's annual shareholders meeting. The protest is just the latest action by organized labor to raise the wages of low-income workers, particularly fast-food employees. Protesters came from all over the country to be part of the week's events, including Tampa.
Dre Finley, 24, works 40 hours a week at Arby's on Fletcher Avenue, and between 10-12 hours a week across the street at McDonald's. He says if people didn't believe that the fast-food workers were serious about getting a raise, they know now (Finley was later one of approximately 100 protesters who were arrested after this interview took place).
"I think it's so serious, they shut down one of their facilities today," Finley told CL by phone from Oak Brook early this afternoon. "They were supposed to have a big meeting going on and I think they were afraid and they shut that down."
The AP reported that protest organizers say they changed the location of their actions early Wednesday after learning that McDonald's cleared out the building where they had planned their actions.
Fast Food Forward is the group behind the year-long effort to target fast-food companies for barely paying above the minimum wage in many cases (they're financed by the Service Employees International Union). The campaign has coincided with a push by President Obama and congressional Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck on $7.25 an hour since 2009 (Florida's minimum wage law is now at $7.91, thanks to a citizens' constitutional amendment raising the level back in 2004).
Finley has been working at McDonalds for just the past month, where he makes $8.00 an hour. He's been working a couple of years now at Arby's, where he makes $8.25. He's the father of a five-year-old girl and is wife is now pregnant with their second child. This was the third month in a row he was late on his rent payment.
When asked if the fast-food workers demand for a living wage of $15.00 is realistic — particularly when Democrats are calling for the minimum wage to only to go $10.10 an hour, Finley said he believes it is, considering how large a corporation McDonalds is. But he said personally, he'd be quite content to make at least $10 or $11 an hour. "I would settle for that," he says.
On Thursday, the protests are expected to continue outside of McDonald's annual shareholder's meeting.