Phoenix McDonald's Workers Rally for Higher Wages, Better Working Conditions

Local McDonald's workers rallied for higher wages, better working conditions, and the right to unionize without retaliation at a press conference this morning.

The workers are involved in the Fight for 15 campaign, a drive to push McDonald's and other fast-food chains to pay workers 15 dollars per hour.

See also: -Phoenix Fast Food Workers Call for $15 Minimum Wage

The rally came on the heels of a major decision by the National Labor Relations Board, which ruled on Tuesday that McDonald's can be held liable for labor and wage violations that take place in its franchised restaurants. McDonald's has claimed that its franchise owners set employee wages. Tuesday's ruling, if upheld, could prevent the corporation from skirting responsibility in labor issues at its franchised restaurants.

"The determination from the NLRB's General Counsel has the potential to upend the fast-food industry's decades-long strategy of 'outsourcing' legal responsibility to franchisees when it comes to securing workers' rights," says Mark Barenberg, a professor at Columbia Law School. "Companies like McDonald's insert an intermediary between themselves and workers, even though they're manifestly in control of the franchisees' employment decisions. The General Counsel's determination leaves no doubt that franchise workers are McDonald's employees."

More than 20 local workers gathered at today's rally in a hot, empty lot next to the McDonald's on North 24th Street and East Osborn Road in Phoenix. Many wore shirts with the logo "Arizona Fight for 15."

"It's time for McDonald's to stop hiding behind its franchises and to pay the workers 15 dollars," said Abril Gallardo, a community representative with the campaign, at the rally.

Gallardo said the local campaign to improve conditions and to raise pay for McDonald's workers has been going on since last year. "We are here to let them know we are standing up with every worker," she said. "Victory is 15 dollars an hour for these workers."

Martha Rodriguez, 21, works in the kitchen at the McDonald's where the rally took place. She has been employed there for over a year and said she makes $8.65 an hour. The minimum wage in Arizona is $7.90 per hour. Rodriguez says she wants not only better pay for herself and her coworkers but also better working conditions. At the rally, she complained about the heat in the kitchen -- "it's like we're working outside in this sun," she said -- as well as a lack of first-aid kits at her restaurant. Rodriguez is a full-time student at Phoenix College and lives at home. She says she couldn't afford to do otherwise.

But Rodriguez says she got involved in the Fight for 15 campaign and the local union, the Arizona Organizing Committee, with her coworkers in mind. One woman at the restaurant where Rodriguez works has been there for 10 years, Rodriguez says, and still makes just $8.75 per hour. Rodriguez says she's given money to her coworkers to help them pay their bills at times.

Joshua Appleberry, 27, works as a cashier at the McDonald's near North 24th Street and East Van Buren. He's been there for a year and one month, and makes $8 an hour. He was given a five-cent raise in June, he says. Appleberry supports himself and his brother off of this wage.

It isn't enough, he says. "Sometimes I have to ask my friends for money or I will be late paying bills," he says. Appleberry also says he isn't given enough full-time work. "The hours are not there," he says.

Appleberry joined the local union about a month ago. Five of the about 30 workers in his restaurant also have joined, he says.

Appleberry says it would change his life to make 15 dollars an hour. "I'd be able to pay my bills on time and give back to the community," he says. He fantasizes about being more financially stable and maybe even going back to school. But on his current pay, that isn't an option, he says.

The McDonald's corporation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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