As part of a nationwide strike, about 50 to 100 protestors gathered outside a McDonalds in downtown Little Rock Thursday, demanding higher pay for fast-food workers. Little Rock Police say 11 of the protesters, who blocked off a portion of Broadway Street, were arrested for disorderly conduct after refusing to move back onto the sidewalk. 36-year old Twanna Scales is a divorced mother of three and works at the McDonalds on Broadway. She said the tactic of blocking traffic is meant to get people talking.
“That’s just showing that we’re willing to do anything to get our message heard,” she said. “Some are willing to go to jail. We’re willing to do anything to get our message heard.”
The protestors chanted slogans like “I believe that we will win” and “make our wages supersized.” The striking workers and other organizers added an obstacle to the morning commute of some drivers. Scales was supposed to work during the protest, but decided to strike instead. She says she got involved with the group when some local and outside organizers came by the restaurant one day.
“People came down here and asked ‘do we want to join the Little Rock 15?’ Certain people decided to join. We put the message out there. But it was [their] choice,” she said.
Scales currently makes 7 dollars and 60 cents an hour, which for her amounts to about 800 dollars a month. She acknowledges that achieving 15 dollars an hour may be a steep hill to climb, given the federal minimum wage sits at 7.25 an hour.
A statewide ballot initiative to eventually raise Arkansas’s minimum wage to 8 dollars fifty cents an hour will likely improve pay for many fast food workers. But the ones rallying on the street, like Scales, said that’s not enough for a living wage. She said the dream of 15 dollars an hour would only be a dream if nobody ever said anything.
“If we don’t ask for what we want then we’ll never get it. And we might not get it, but at least we’re asking for it,” she said.
A sizable number of the protesters in Little Rock made the trip down from St. Louis. A group called Show Me 15 has been helping fast food workers across the South and Midwest stage similar events. Mathew Palmer is part of that group and works at a McDonalds in St. Louis while residing in Ferguson, Missouri. He says he’s no stranger to protesting.
“In St. Louis we’re very active. We do a lot of demonstrations like this throughout the city,” he said. “We do this on a weekly basis kind of, a little bit.”
After holding a position at the intersection of 7th and Broadway for nearly half an hour, the protestors proceeded to march a few blocks down Broadway into the heart of downtown Little Rock, where Little Rock Police eventually arrested the 11members of the group.