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Missouri worker protest spreads

In the week since it started at a South St. Louis Jimmy John's restaurant, a local work stoppage has blossomed into a worker protest. No less than two-dozen fast-food eateries in the area now have workers who are participating in street protests and rallies to fight for better conditions and representation. Some sources say that the strikers number around 100 workers.

The strikers are protesting for higher minimum wage laws and union rights. A labor organization coalition that includes community groups and religious organizations says that the minimum wage payment in Missouri, which is only 10 cents higher than the national amount, is equal to about half of St. Louis County's stated Self-Sufficiency Standard. They noted that many of the protesters therefore had difficulties paying for basic necessities. Organizers also claimed that those who were paid more would be able to engage in more consumer activities to jump start the local economy.

Some of the protesting workers were quoted as saying that they weren't afraid of retaliation. Others who signed up to fight for higher pay and unionization were reported as having later backed out. Notably, restaurants affected by the strike, like a McDonald's in Ferguson, did not accept any documents delivered by union representatives. The Jimmy John's workers who initiated this effort also alleged that management at the restaurant mistreated them.

Wage disputes between workers and their employers don't always make it this far. Even though some workers enjoy union benefits, many still seek legal representation in court to take advantage of the rights guaranteed to them by the Fair Labor Standards Act and attempt to formally prove that they were wronged.

Source: The St. Louis American, "Fast-food workers protest wages", Jo Mannies, May 15, 2013

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