Dressed in his uniform of a blue polo shirt and a black baseball cap, Steven Suffridge stood outside the south Minneapolis McDonald’s where he works and told a crowd that he has struggled to get by for years on low wages and no paid sick time.
At the kickoff to a day of events highlighting a push from workers’ groups for a higher minimum wage and other changes on Thursday, Suffridge and other hourly workers said they want the city to step in and help.
Suffridge said that he has worked at fast-food restaurants for more than 16 years, but that he doesn’t earn enough to build up a savings account, visit family or go see a movie.
“We’re fighting for our rights and for $15 an hour so we can provide for ourselves and our families,” he said. “We’d like paid sick days. Either we go to work sick because we cannot afford the time off if we don’t go to work and we feel the difference in our paychecks by missing a day or two.”
The “Minneapolis Works” day, which was to include speeches and events in all of Minneapolis’ 13 City Council wards, follows a large demonstration at City Hall in July by workers and members of groups including Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) and TakeAction Minnesota.
The groups have urged Mayor Betsy Hodges and council members to pass a slate of ordinances that would raise the minimum wage, provide paid sick time to more workers, and prevent employers from making last-minute schedule changes or requiring employees to work back-to-back closing and opening shifts.
Ruth Schultz, an organizer with CTUL, said that several council members seem receptive to the ideas and that some planned to attend Thursday’s events. “People are very supportive,” she said. “We want to make sure action happens this year.”
Hodges has said that she backs requirements on scheduling and sick leave, and that she supports a higher minimum wage. She has not thrown her support behind the idea of a citywide wage hike to $15, but has urged other communities to work on a regional wage increase.
One worker at the gathering at the McDonald’s on Lake Street already has taken legal action, joining with other janitorial workers in a wage-theft lawsuit against the contracting company they work for.
Duniyo Hussein, who has worked for nearly two years cleaning the Macy’s store at the Mall of America, said she works six days a week but doesn’t bring home enough money to help her family. “We need vacation, benefits and a good raise,” she said. “Ten dollars, $11, we need it.”