Laura Rollins, a 65-year-old fast-food worker in South Florida, has been protesting for fair wages for nearly three years. But earlier this month, she believes, her outspokenness might have cost her her job: On November 9, she was let go from McDonald's after seven years of service.
"I'm thinking that's why they fired me," says Rollins, who was making $9.48 per hour after years of insulting 10-cent raises. "I was the ringleader."
Like Rollins, 42 percent of U.S. workers earn less than $15 an hour, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project. A study by United Way showed that Floridians need to make at least $15 per hour to cover basic living expenses.
Where others might back down after experiencing alleged retaliation, Rollins instead believes her voice in the movement is more important than ever. Today she joins thousands of low-paid workers in 340 U.S. cities in a mass effort to raise the minimum wage.
"Honestly, it makes me want to go out and protest harder," Rollins tells New Times.
In South Florida, the protest began at 6 a.m. today with an employee walkout at the McDonald's on Biscayne Boulevard at NE 130th Street in North Miami. At noon, the protesters will assemble at the Fort Lauderdale airport to march through the terminals, where a large-scale "mannequin challenge" has been planned to highlight the various problems low-paid workers deal with.
"Somebody may be holding a disconnection notice from their electricity company, somebody may be holding a schedule showing their hours have been cut, somebody may be holding a check that has missing hours, which, by the way, is something workers at the Fort Lauderdale airport have been reporting," says Ana
The nationwide protest will also bring Lyft and Uber drivers into the fold. Drivers for Uber, who complain that the company has cut fares and strong-armed them into accepting ultra-cheap Uber Pool rides, are expected to strike in large metro areas such as Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, although local organizers say they don't expect a large showing in Miami.
Among those protesting are Marlon Navas and Connie Martinez, a Miami couple who began driving for Lyft after their hours at KFC were cut. By the time they account for gas and wear-and-tear on their vehicles, the two say they average less than $7 an hour with Lyft. The couple has embraced the "Fight for $15" movement — the only alternative is to do nothing.
"If we stay at home, it’s not going to come to us," Martinez says. "We have to fight for it."
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