Fast food workers across the US struck on Thursday of last week. The action was part of an escalating campaign for $15 (£9.30) an hour wages and the right to join a trade union.
Around 100 strikers moved to block the city’s biggest intersection in Durham, North Carolina. A worker walked out of McDonald’s to join them as they arrived.
One striker clapped and belted out, “Woke up this morning with my mind set on justice”. Others chanted “We shall not be moved” and “We’re ready for 15”.
Strikers held a banner that read, “Organise the South”. Another had a huge handwritten sign saying, “We can’t afford to pay our bills”.
They linked arms as police marched in. Someone shouted “Hands up, don’t shoot” in reference to the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri, last month.
One by one the strikers, fists clenched in the air, were handcuffed and taken away as others cheered in their support.
McDonald’s worker Krystal Patterson told Socialist Worker why she was striking. “People stood up to slavery,” she said.
“The Civil Rights movement was people making a stand, and they made change.
“We’ve got to stay strong—and civil disobedience shows them we’re not going anywhere.”
Reverend William Barber, North Carolina president of civil rights organisation NAACP, spoke at a rally before the roadblock.
“Don’t let someone making a thousand times more than you tell you that you don’t deserve a living wage,” he said. “The last march in 1968 that Martin Luther King went on was with garbage workers fighting for wages.
“You represent the continuation of the Civil Rights movement. Don’t you stop, don’t you turn around.”
Thousands walked out across 150 cities as during a previous strike in May. This time 500 were arrested after civil disobedience. There were major actions in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
Nequasia Le Grand, a KFC worker from Brooklyn, was one of those arrested for blocking New York’s Time Square.
She told Socialist Worker, “We’re willing to do whatever it takes. If that means shutting down an intersection, we will do it, to bring us closer to $15 and a union.”
Crystal, a worker at Wendy’s, had travelled with her two young children to Durham from nearby Greensboro. Sit-ins there against racist segregation in 1960 helped build the Civil Rights movement.
She told Socialist Worker, “In my Wendy’s there’s 30 workers, 20 are strikers. Every time we strike there’s more coming out.
“You can’t make a change by yourself. It’s different when you have others round you.”
I went to the US as part of a Fast Food Rights campaign delegation. We are fighting for union rights and £10 an hour minimum wage in Britain. Go to fastfoodrights.wordpress.com to find out more.