While commuters to work were getting their morning coffee and bagels from the McDonalds at 2701 Colonial Drive Tuesday morning, a crowd of protesters angrily and loudly made themselves known. They wanted $15 an hour minimum wage, and so they were going on strike from their various food service and airport jobs until something changed.
The rage was a palpable thing. The protesters, most donning orange Fight for 15 shirts and carrying signs and chanting high-school-football-field chants about their unfair wages and deserving more, got more energized the more the sun rose. Put on by local activist group Organize Now, the protest also attempted to tie in themes of racial injustice and immigrant justice, fires stoked by the recent presidential election.
One speaker, Clint Cuyler, shouted into a megaphone and railed against the large divide between the corporate billionaires and the working class. Cuyler works at Jason’s Deli for $9.75 an hour.
“We work for the large corporations, and they lie and steal from us,” he said. “We make their burgers, and what do we get? Nothing. 80 percent off a meal and a free soda? We’re living in poverty. The minimum wage is too low. Who wants to work in McDonalds and get replaced by robots? [Expletive] that! Who’s going to care? They won’t give a [expletive].”
The protest on Tuesday morning was in unison with others going on nationwide. The significance of it taking place Tuesday was because on this date in 2012, the Fight for 15 movement started, and workers went on strike to protest their low wages and try to make a change.
After all this time, though, not much has changed. Cuyler and many others at the protest thought going on strike was the best way to voice their rage and displeasure.
“It’s a big way to express our grievances,” he told FloridaPolitics.com. “It’s direct action against them. We ask for a raise and they just take and take and take. If people feel it’s urgent, they should do something about it.”
Inside McDonalds before sunrise, a man who didn’t want to be identified sat having his breakfast before the protest arrived. He’d heard about the protest briefly on the news and didn’t look favorably upon it.
“It makes me mad,” he said. “They want money when half the time you come in here, and they can’t get your order right. It’s not politically correct, but that’s the truth. Some cities did it and lost as much as 500 to 700 food jobs, and that was just raising the wage to $10.50 an hour.”
Thomas Evans works at McDonalds in Orlando and said he wanted to be a role model for others looking to enact change but who may not know how to. So that’s why he was protesting, he said.
“I work so hard,” he said. “I work 40 hours a week, and now it’s down to 30. And I got bills coming. I do so much, but there’s no recognition of that.”