Workers and activists held a rally outside the McDonald’s in Shockoe Bottom last week as part of a nationwide celebration of a recent victory for fast-food workers up north.
A group of about 30 gathered outside the restaurant at 1800 E. Broad St. on Thursday. The rally was part celebration that New York plans to raise fast-food workers’ minimum wage to $15 per hour and part rallying cry for the same change to take place for Richmond workers.
The event was organized by Raise Up, a nationwide organization calling for the minimum wage to be $15 an hour and for the right for workers to form unions. Participants in the rally included Richmond area McDonald’s workers and members of the Virginia Service Employee International Union.
Rolandah McMillan, a former employee at the McDonald’s on Chamberlayne Avenue, gathered signatures for a petition to raise wages. She said she’d been involved with Raise Up for about a year trying to organize workers.
“They ain’t right,” McMillan said of McDonald’s. “They want to stop us from our union activities.”
McMillan said she would like to see the appointment of a wage board in Richmond to hold hearings on the minimum wage. Similar moves to review minimum wage policies are taking place in California and Washington, D.C.
The Virginia minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009. Virginia is a right-to-work state, meaning workers cannot be forced to pay union dues, be discriminated against if they are not union members, or be required to join a union after a certain amount of time.
Of the nearly 3,000 McDonald’s locations in the U.S., 90 percent are franchises. Wages at its restaurants are set according to the job and local and federal laws. The company has said in public statements that it does not determine wages set by its franchisees.
As to the overall discussion of wage increases, McDonald’s has said publicly that any such changes should take place in a way that is manageable to businesses.
An employee at the East Broad Street McDonald’s said he didn’t think any of his fellow employees were outside protesting. He said he hadn’t joined the protest because he was afraid he’d lose his job.