Seven Miami-area fast-food workers were arrested yesterday during a planned protest to fight for wage increases and the right to unionize.
According to a spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the protesters Anthony Roberson, Shontavia Myers, Elvis Manuel Valdez Jr., Laura Rollins, Monique Logan, Tiffany Leggett, and Ericka Ward were arrested between 1 to 1:30 p.m. near the McDonald's located at NE 168th Street and Second Ave. in North Miami Beach for blocking traffic. The arrests occurred about two hours into the protest. The protesters were taken to the North Miami Beach police station, given summonses, and released about an hour later.
According to Shontavia Myers, a McDonald's employee who was one of the protesters, the arrests occurred when protesters decided to sit in the street. "I decided I wasn't going to be moved. When the police came we still sat there. We continued to yell our chants. I didn't get up until an officer came and told me I was getting arrested. I got up and was taken down to the station and got a ticket."
Myers, a South Florida native who has worked at McDonald's for about a year, says she feels good about the protests, even after the outcome. "I was doing it for a good cause. I understand if I was doing something wrong, but I want my voice to be heard. I'm not going to be moved. Somebody has to understand what's going on."
Myers, who says she is working on her GED with a goal of getting into the nursing field, says that she joined yesterday's protest after she felt she was being treated unfairly at her workplace. "I'm tired of McDonald's managers. If my register draws short, they want the money back. I have to cash my check and give them money. I have bills to pay. I'm not getting enough hours and I'm tired of being the one who has to live day to day. We work on our feet from 10 in the morning until 7 or 8 p.m. and I hear some of the McDonald's don't even give breaks. We're just working, working, working and I don't feel that's right."
Shontavia said she tried to go through the proper channels to have her say without much success. "I told my manager my situation and that I needed more hours. My manager just said, 'OK but didn't do anything'. That's when I started looking into things. Once I joined the "Fight for 15" it's been wonderful ever since. A difference is being made. I don't have to continue to feel like I'm alone. There's a support group behind me fighting with me until everyone has this."
When asked what would she say if she was granted a meeting with Donald Thompson, CEO of McDonald's, the hopeful protester said she would tell him she's an asset to the company. "I'm doing a fabulous job getting customers out of the woodwork. I don't feel like we should make seven or eight dollars an hour. I have to go to the doctor. A lot of times it gets hard and I can't do anything. I need you to help me make my life easier. I want to live somewhat like you do. I want you to stop stealing my money."
Myers continues to be employed by the fast food giant.
Yesterday's protests in Miami were part of a larger picture in which thousands of fast food workers in 150 cities across America walked off their jobs. The workers are calling for a $15 minimum wage and the right to organize unions. According to a press release issued by the SEIU, workers were also arrested in New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Little Rock, and Las Vegas.