With chants like "I believe that we will win, I believe that we will win," scores of protesters picketed a Codman Square McDonald's in Boston Tuesday as they escalated their campaign promoting a $15-per-hour minimum wage for fast-food and other low-wage workers.
The protesters are closely allied with the Service Workers International Union, and groups like Worker Center Watch say the "Fight for $15" is really just an unconventional $20 million unionization campaign.
The major changes since this campaign last had this kind of visibility: the Massachusetts minimum wage has gone up to $9 an hour as of Jan 1 -- $10 next January -- and McDonald's and WalMart have both agreed to pay many workers more, increasing minimum pay for many of their workers to $10 per hour over the next year.
But the McDonald's raise affects just 90,000 workers at 1,500 corporate-owned franchises, about 1 of every 8 McDonald's workers.
"That dollar increase they gave the corporate [owned franchise employees] was an insult," said Darius Cephas, who's 24 and said he's worked for two and a half years at a McDonald's in Dorchester, usually getting no more than 35 hours a week.
"I do odd jobs here and there to keep me above water but my check mainly goes to all my bills. So my check, I don't get nothing out of my check," Cephas said. "Any money I get is from like doing a roof job or gutter jobs -- basically, manual labor jobs, under-the-table jobs."
And that $9 Bay State minimum wage hasn't made much difference for him or for Kenny Brimage of Brockton, who said he's worked at a now-closed Holbrook Burger King that hasn't reopened since its roof collapsed during this winter's blizzard.
"You have certain things you've got to pay for. It doesn't help at all," Brimage said of the $9 wage level. "I mean, I feel like it was a diversion to stop us from doing what we're doing here."
"It helped a little bit because it keeps me over that $200 barrier every week but at the same time, it's not enough," Cephas said. "It's not a liveable wage. You can't live off $9.25 an hour."