Richard Eiker likes to dream of a comfortable retirement.
The 52-year-old McDonald’s employee imagines himself sitting in a decent apartment under a roof that does not leak with a cup of coffee in his hand. Don’t forget the sugar and cream.
He may have spread brochures on his kitchen table while planning a trip to New York. Maybe he’s seeing a Broadway play. Maybe Hamilton.
But then Eiker comes back to reality.
“It’s just a dream. Impossible to achieve,” Eiker said to at least 100 people who had gathered at McDonald’s on 3255 Main Street. “After working at McDonald’s for almost a quarter of a century, I still barely have enough to to satisfy my needs. “
“That’s not right,” shouted someone from the crowd, demanding union rights and a $ 15 minimum wage for fast food workers. Stand Up KC, an employee representation organization, gathered the lunchtime rally.
About 100 people gathered to demand union rights and a $ 15 minimum wage for fast food workers at a McDonald’s on Main Street in Kansas City. Anna Spoerre [email protected]
The group is affiliated with Fight for $ 15, a labor organization that seeks to unify fast food workers. The Kansas City rally was part of a national day of action that gathered workers in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Miami and St. Louis. The demonstrations were scheduled ahead of McDonald’s annual general meeting.
As Eiker gets older, he can hardly afford gasoline and groceries, let alone put away money for retirement.
Eiker said for himself and for millions of Americans, “All you need is a car to break down or a trip to the emergency room.”
Because of the pandemic, Eiker’s hours have been reduced. He was forced to cut recipes and visit the pantry.
“It is up to us to join together as brothers and sisters in the struggle for true freedom and equality,” said Eiker. “It starts with holding these million dollar companies accountable and insisting that anyone who gives their blood, sweat and tears to a company deserves a living wage and a union.”
Chicago-based McDonald’s announced Thursday that hourly wages would rise by an average of 10% to $ 13 per hour over the next few months, and will rise to $ 15 per hour by 2024. Beginners will earn at least $ 11 an hour. Shift supervisors make at least $ 15 an hour.
In a press release on Wednesday, Stand Up KC said the company’s plan was inadequate, with only about 5% of McDonald’s employees benefiting from it and leaving out those who work in franchisees.
The vast majority of McDonald’s nearly 14,000 US stores are owned by franchisees who pay at their own restaurants.
Rep. Emily Weber, a Missouri Democrat from Kansas City, also stood on the podium. As someone who worked in retail and the food industry, Weber said she knew how taxable the jobs can be.
“You’re working your bum off,” said Weber. “Double shifts. Long hours. Shitty conditions. No advantages. ”
The crowd was full of people who were considered essential workers during the coronavirus restrictions. But Weber said although they were called heroes in the pandemic, they were never treated as such.
Bill Thompson, 50, listened from the crowd on Wednesday. Thompson, an employee at Burger King, said when his mother was taken to a hospice with cancer last winter, he had to take six weeks of unpaid leave to care for her.
He and his wife had to rely on their low salary as a housekeeper to earn a minimum wage. Things got tight and they started visiting pantries to make sure they had something to eat every day.
Thompson said he wished he would receive a hazard payment during the pandemic. Every day he worried about bringing the virus home to his wife with diabetes or his elderly mother-in-law.
“There’s no protection at work at all,” Thompson said, adding that he also deals with armed customers who are upset about an order.
Terrence Wise, a McDonald’s worker who attended the rally, applauded the crowd for their courage to show up.
“It will take collective action, and days like today, many more, if we are to break the cycle of poverty in Kansas City,” said Wise.
Monica Roberts, 46, holds a large, forged check in her hand as she and around 100 people gathered on Wednesday, May 19, 2021 to discuss union rights and a $ 15 minimum wage for fast food workers at a McDonald’s on Main Street in Kansas City. Anna Spoerre [email protected]
Stand Up KC organized a similar rally in January that was attended by Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who also advocated a $ 15 minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is currently $ 7.25 an hour. In Missouri, it’s $ 10.30
As the rally ended, the group reloaded cars and trucks with signs and magnets attached to promote workers’ rights, and the caravan drove to an area of Wendy where nine workers were on strike.
Monica Roberts, 46, from Odessa, was with the group. She has been part of the Fight for $ 15 for at least five years and has worked at Popeyes, McDonald’s, Hardee’s, and KFC.
Her children were adopted after they were taken away from her because she couldn’t support them financially at $ 7.25 an hour, she said. They were 2, 4, and 7 years old at the time.
Roberts came out for her on Wednesday.
“I want to show my kids that anything is possible if you go out there and try to make a change in the community,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to the coverage.
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Anna Spoerre covers the breaking news for the Kansas City star. Prior to joining The Star, she reported on crime and courts for the Des Moines Register. Spoerre is a graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she studied journalism.