Employees of several central Arkansas fast food restaurants took part in demonstrations Thursday calling for higher wages.
About 60 people chanted slogans and held signs saying “Show Me $15 and a Union,” outside a Little Rock McDonald's. Similar protests, all organized by the group Fight for 15, took place in over 150 U.S. cities. The group also organized demonstrations here in September.
Clarence Piggie works at the restaurant on Broadway Street and claims his hours were cut after taking part in the last event. He said he was willing to risk further disciplinary action to demonstrate again for what he considers a living wage.
"Look at what we’re working for," Piggie said. "I’ve got a child, a 12-year old son. I can’t raise him and pay bills at home off of no $7.25."
In addition to fast food workers, some home health care, airline and convenience store employees are also part of the national movement.
A customer going through the McDonald's drive thru, who didn't want to give her name, wasn’t supportive of the group’s efforts. "In my opinion, they don’t need no union. They chose not to go back to school. They chose to go to McDonald’s because it was the easy job. McDonald’s will help you go back to school, but the ones that ask for these $15 an hour, they ain’t trying to go back to school."
In a brief break before moving to a North Little Rock restaurant, the protesters celebrated two McDonald's workers who walked off their shift, as well as other community members who spontaneously joined the demonstration.
Little Rock attorney Colleen Youngdahl was among a handful of national and regional leaders to organize the peaceful protest. She specified that, "Today, it’s important that we don’t block traffic. We don’t block pedestrian traffic and we don’t block any entrances of any of the stores. But otherwise we’re exercising our first amendment right to be heard and be in public space."
Police were notified of the demonstrations weeks ago and were present, but only to make sure the flow of traffic wasn’t interrupted as happened at the previous protest three months ago.
The group Fight for 15 makes a distinction between raising the overall minimum wage and increasing salaries for specific industries and corporations, such as fast food companies, where there are major discrepancies between CEO salaries and those of the average worker.
Employees from a McDonalds in Sherwood, taking part in the Little Rock demonstration, said they don’t feel the recent minimum wage hike passed last month in Arkansas is enough.
"It’s not what we want, but it’s better than nothing. I think we should just move on with that and move forward to something bigger than that because we’re taking baby steps. I want to take more," one said.
The manager of the McDonald’s location declined to comment and a message left at the company’s corporate headquarters wasn't immediately returned.
Those interviewed said they believe union representation is their most important goal.