The call for increased wages, fair labor practices and unions today found its way to local establishments, as workers from various fast-food restaurants walked off the job in protest.
As employees of Hardee’s, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King and other restaurants joined the picket lines, Columbia’s fast-food franchises remained open for business, prompting some to question the efficacy of the strikes.
Druu Belcher, manager of the Columbia McDonald’s on Conley Road, expressed doubts as to whether the strikes would result in an increase in wages, citing that most profit comes from student customers, who frequent fast-food restaurants near the campus, and the reluctance of workers to lose their jobs.
“I don’t think these protests will affect wages in Columbia at all,” Belcher said. “The city runs off the university, so it’s going to mean that nine out of 10 times, if you strike, you might be unemployed.”
Similarly, Susan Hawes, the manager of the Wendy’s restaurant on Bernadette Drive said that though she had heard about the strikes, she did not expect anyone from her restaurant to participate.
In addition to workers walking off the job, the demonstrations included a 9:30 a.m. press conference at the Hardee’s on Providence Road and a rally at noon at the Taco Bell on Nifong Boulevard.
Columbia was one of 60 cities around the country to join Thursday’s call to action. Workers in major cities elsewhere walked off the job, demanding an increase in wages to $15 per hour, the right to form unions without fearing repercussions from employers and and end to unfair labor practices.
The Rev. Molly Housh Gordon was one of several faith leaders to join the protests of Columbia’s workers.
Local fast-food workers were inspired and invigorated as media coverage heightened around worker strikes in larger cities around the nation, Gordon said.
Gordon said she was pleased to see at least 50 community members in attendance, standing in solidarity with fast-food workers and their demands, and said she felt personally driven to support the cause because of her faith.
“The goal of today was for workers to have a voice and to stand together and know their community stands with them,” Gordon said. “I believe in the God-given dignity and worth of every person and the dignity of hard working people to put food on the table.”