Workers’ demands include $15 minimum wage, union rights
PITTSBURGH — No 29, 2016 – Thousands of workers are walking off the job and marching Tuesday in cities across the country, including Pittsburgh, where morning protests will be followed by a larger downtown rally in the afternoon.
The Service Employees International Union is targeting McDonald’s restaurants and UPMC with marches demanding a $15 minimum wage and union representation.
Organizers began their "Day of Disruption" marches at McDonald’s on Penn Avenue in East Liberty. Demonstrators went inside to voice their demands, then began circling the restaurant outside and chanting slogans like "Hold your burgers, hold your fries. We want wages supersized."
"I want to be able to take care of my family, to take care of myself, to pay bills," McDonald’s employee Aaron McCollum said. "You can’t possibly do that on $7.25, $7.35 an hour."
The protest then moved to a McDonald’s restaurant on North Euclid Avenue.
"It’s about workers, but it’s also recognizing that workers are more than who they are in between when they clock in and clock out, but that they’re our community members, they’re our neighbors, they’re humans," said Kai Pang, an organizer with Pittsburgh United. "We should have the right to not only survive but thrive in this city."
The group plans a similar protest near a McDonald’s and the federal building downtown during the evening rush hour.
"I’m just trying to fight for something that I believe in," McCollum said.
A press release on behalf of the group added, "Giant Eagle workers will also join the Fight for $15 today, asking that the company start paying family-sustaining wages and stop interfering with Giant Eagle employees’ right to organize."
The union contends UPMC shuttle bus workers have also gone on strike seeking union representation.
UPMC previously announced plans to increase the minimum starting wage for entry-level jobs at most of its facilities to $15 per hour by 2021.
But the union says UPMC needs to move faster, and it accused the network of trying to silence workers and union organizers.
UPMC hasn’t commented on Tuesday’s activity.
"I think more now than ever that we’re standing up for worker’s rights, for economic justice at a time when income inequality is very high and only grows higher," said Pang.