Cedar Rapids McDonald's employees, demonstrators call for chain to serve up higher wages, union rights

McDonalds worker Brandon Saul pickets in front of the McDonald's, 1530 First Ave. E, with other McDonald's workers and u
McDonalds worker Brandon Saul pickets in front of the McDonald’s, 1530 First Ave. E, with other McDonald’s workers and union activists in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, May 23, 2019. The strikers are demonstrating for union rights and a livable wage. The demonstration was part of a coordinated protest in more than a dozen cities on the day of the fast-food corporation’s annual shareholder meeting in Dallas. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Some 50 people, including McDonald’s employees, representatives of the Service Employees International Union Local 199 and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, demonstrated for a $15 minimum wage and union rights outside the chain’s store on 1530 First Ave. E in Cedar Rapids Thursday morning.

Similar demonstrations were scheduled to take place in 12 other cities nationwide under the Fight for $15 labor movement. The actions were intended to coincide with McDonald’s annual shareholders meeting in Dallas.

The crowd marched on the sidewalk in front of the store, at points parading down its drive-through lane and peacefully entering the store, which did not cease operations.

“I just want to see if we can get the union going and help,” said Jackie Pirtle, who said he worked at the Cedar Rapids store for five “long” years.

The 65-year-old janitor said he makes $9 an hour and has 18 metal screws in his feet. Of a wage increase, Pirtle said, “It’d make me feel good.”

Kelly Osborn, 45, who lives in Cedar Rapids with her five-year-old grandson, said she has earned $8.25 an hour working various positions at the store for about three months.

“I live in a really crappy apartment,” she said. “I could move somewhere. I could pay for day care, which I don’t have right now. Fifteen dollars could do a lot for me.”

Iowa follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.


McDonald’s told the National Restaurant Association in a late March letter that it no longer will lobby against minimum wage legislation but has made no further commitments.

Fight for $15 organizers hope to make unions “a defining issue of the 2020 (presidential) campaign,” the movement said in a news release.

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