A group of local fast food workers and community activists calling for a minimum pay of $15 an hour is planning a march on Little Rock City Hall Thursday. The group “Show Me 15,” which originated in St. Louis, is planning the latest rally. It follows other rallies at Central Arkansas fast food restaurants over the past year.
Delona Hairrs of St. Louis is a member of the group and spoke with KUAR in June. She said “Show Me 15” and local organizers hope to influence Arkansas municipalities to pass ordinances that can raise pay.
“We're still talking about it. It's still on the table. I know Arkansas is not New York or St. Louis...we're getting ideas from them, how they went about doing. Maybe it won't work here in the south. Maybe it will. We'll see,” she said.
In addition to protesting for a raise in pay, “Show Me 15” and it's Central Arkansas equivalent, “Fight for 15,” also say they want to use the rallies to support their effort to form a union. The St. Louis group has also led rallies with similarly situated workers around the region, traveling by bus to protest in cities like Memphis and New Orleans.
Many workers in the movement acknowledge that an Arkansas constitutional amendment raising the state minimum wage gradually to $8.50 an hour by 2017 is a step in the right direction, but would still leave many low wage workers in poverty. Currently the state minimum wage is $7.50 an hour. The national minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
“We're trying different strategies to improve our situation,” said 38-year old Shaun Goodwin, a Pine Bluff McDonalds grill manager who says he makes $7.50 an hour.“We feel if we can get the ones that are making the laws involved in the situation also, it will greatly improve our chances of getting what we're trying to get.”
Neil Sealy with Arkansas Community Organizations, which plans to have a presence at the rally, says Arkansas cities are forbidden by state law to raise the minimum wages for all workers, both public and private, within in city limits, because of the absence of home rule.
“But what jurisdictions can do is set their own wage policies and minimum wage policies for their [city] workers. We call them living wage policies,” he said.
Sealy says living wage policies can also be applied to city contractors. One such policy was passed by Pine Bluff voters in 2006. He says his organizations and the “Fight For 15” group plan to hold meetings in the coming months to discuss an effort to advance local policies that would increase pay minimums.
The rally is to begin at 6pm Thursday outside Little Rock City Hall.