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DC McDonald’s Workers: What Protests?

Union front’s fast food protests unlikely to draw D.C. workers

• September 4, 2014 9:00 am

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Employees at a pair of Washington, D.C., McDonald’s said they were not planning on partaking in protests allegedly waged on their behalf by a union-backed front group seeking a national minimum wage of $15.

Letica Sanchez, 42, started working for McDonald’s in 2001 after spending 8 years in the dry cleaning business and an assortment of odd jobs. She applied to the fast food franchise outside of the University of Maryland, as well as several other jobs assuming she’d only get part-time work. However, her manager soon gave her a full-time work schedule after she volunteered to take the weekend and night shifts that many of her teenage coworkers refused to work.

"When they saw that I liked to work, they gave me my 8-hour shifts. I didn’t need to get a second job," she said. "Sometimes people don’t take this job seriously, but I did."

She started working in the kitchen, but was soon recommended to take management courses paid for by McDonald’s. Her career took off and she supports two daughters, aged 8 and 11. Sanchez is now the store manager at one of the busiest locations in Washington, catering to tourists and workers as they pass between the White House and Capitol on 13th and F Street NW.

"McDonald’s has helped me and so many people grow our career. They support us always and prepare us to manage," Sanchez said.

She said the SEIU-sponsored protests that are scheduled to take place in more than 100 cities on Thursday were unlikely to have much of an effect on her store. The last batch of protests drew "five or six people," none of whom were employees. Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant, credited the franchise’s culture of upward mobility, hard work, and benefits with the lack of interest in protests.

"They helped with discounted daycare, shoes, cell phones. They help us have better jobs and a better life," she said. "We come to work to try our best and they treat us well."

When Sanchez walked off I began asking her employees about the protests. They had yet to hear of them. I walked two blocks up 13th Street to the New York Avenue McDonald’s location. When the white-shirted manager turned away I asked cashiers and fry cooks whether they planned on participating in the protests.

"What? No. They treat us good," said a man whose nametag read Rodrigo. His coworkers echoed the sentiments.

The workers and managers both said they were fine with people showing up to picket, though they hadn’t seen many in the past few months. Customers were not nearly as sympathetic to the union front group’s cause. Liz Cruz sipped on her M&M McFlurry as she walked up 13th Street. She supports increasing the minimum wage, but the $15 hourly wage demanded by union front group Fast Food Forward is "too much" for her.

"It would raise the cost of food and stop them from hiring," she said.

She could understand the wage demands from workers, but the union agitation at the foundation of the protests disturbed her. The September 4th protests would be more effective if actual workers stood in front of the stores holding picket signs, according to Cruz.

"You shouldn’t be protesting if that’s not what you’re dealing with," she said.

Published under: Minimum Wage, Unions