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Houston Fast Food Workers Arrested For Pay Raise Protest

Workers in 150 cities are demanding $15 an hour.



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On its sign, the McDonald’s on the corner of Richmond and Fountainview advertised that it provides medical and dental care for low-income families.

Standing underneath it, Luis Ortiz was taking pictures of Houston police officers putting his daughter Iris in the back of a patrol car. Ortiz said he’s proud of her.

“She do that for me and for my wife,” he said. “Because I work in a Burger King and my wife too.”

He said his family can’t live on the $7.50 an hour he and his wife earn at their jobs. Per month, he makes about $800.

“I have $550 for the rent,” Ortiz said. “$800, that’s not too much. I need to pay my bills. I need to pay the education for my daughters.”

Along with Iris Ortiz, four other fast food workers were arrested for blocking the street and refusing to get up. The same happened in other cities across America.

It was the first time workers in Houston used that strategy since they first started protesting about a year ago.

 “They feel like that’s the step that they need to take to really get the attention of corporations like McDonald’s, Burger King that are such large corporations that, frankly, as one might assume, aren’t looking to sit down with individual workers on a regular basis,” said Laura Perez-Boston with the Fe y Justicia Worker Center, which supports the fast food workers.

The protesters are asking for a pay raise to $15 an hour.

In a statement, McDonald’s USA said it supports paying employees “fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace.”

And it goes on to say that any increase in the minimum wage should be implemented over time to keep the impact on businesses low.

Melissa Stewart, executive director of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, said the nationwide protests are less about justice and low pay than they are about boosting union membership.

“The shame is that restaurants really do continue to be a critical employer that makes sure America’s workforce is provided a pathway into affordability and success,” Stewart said.

“A lot of people who work in restaurants, you know, that was their first job, and more than 85 percent of folks who start in a restaurant get promoted within and move up.”

Stewart didn’t question some of the protesters’ personal situations, but she said they don’t necessarily represent the majority of fast food workers.  

Back outside the McDonald’s on Richmond, Perez-Boston said this wasn’t the last protest.

“We’re in it to win it, and this may take a long time,” she said, “but we’re going to keep on putting our message out there and our vision, because it’s what we need and what our communities deserve.”