Lessons from Low Wage Workers in St. Louis; Rev. Dr. Martin Rafanan, Community Director, STL735

In the past few months thousands of low-wage fast food workers have walked off their jobs at Hardees, Jimmy Johns, McDonalds, and dozens of other fast food restaurants – at hundreds of locations – all across the country. In New York, Chicago, St Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit, DC, and most recently in Seattle, they have demanded $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. What can we learn from these efforts? In what ways does a low wage economy impact our St. Louis community? What are these low wage workers teaching us about the value and dignity of labor? How can we support low wage workers and their leadership? What are the next steps in St. Louis?

Martin Rafanan currently serves as the Community Director of STL735 “St. Louis Can’t Survive on $7.35” where he organizes labor, community, faith and student support for low wage workers, especially those in the Fast Food and Retail industries. On May 8 and 9, 2013, over 100 fast food workers walked off from their jobs in St. Louis and were later accompanied back to their jobs by community leaders. The focus of the strike is a demand for a wage that covers basic human needs and the right to form a union without retaliation.