As part of the national “Fight for $15” campaign for a higher minimum wage and the right to unionize without repercussions, a large crowd of protesters organized near the steps of UR’s Eastman Quad at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15. Speakers addressed the protesters before they began their march toward College Town.
Marchers included Metro Justice organizers, fast food workers, members of local unions, churches and activist groups and UR students from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), as well as Douglass Leadership House, Black Students’ Union, Pride Network and College Feminists.
Dawn Marshall-Hosier, the Service Employees International United (SEIU) Local 200United Executive Vice President and Organizer and Danforth Dining Hall worker, said that she and other UR workers were there “in solidarity with fast food workers fighting for $15 an hour.” She also credits her union membership for helping her earn $15 an hour, a “living wage,” highlighting the importance of the rights of workers to unionize.
Dan Lombardo, a shift manager at the McDonald’s across from Marketplace Mall, said that he sees people who “don’t get enough to survive. They deserve more. They deserve better. They have families; they have kids.”
“If I’m not fighting,” Lombardo said, “I’m saying that the treatment my coworkers and I get, the wages we get, is acceptable. So being here is saying the opposite—it’s unacceptable.”
SDS External Communications Chair and sophomore Jordan Polcyn-Evans introduced each speaker and was the first to address the crowd on the Eastman Quad, saying that students often “don’t realize” that the issue of a living wage is so “close to home.”
The demonstrators marched from the Eastman Quad, past Wallis Hall and Hutchison Hall and under the Intercampus Drive bridge. A passing Gold Line shuttle and many other cars honked in support as they proceeded toward College Town. They then spread out across two lanes of Elmwood Ave. as they chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!,” marching behind a Teamsters trailer truck which intermittently blared its horn. After passing College Town and nearing the intersection of Mt. Hope Ave. and Crittenden Dr., they returned to the sidewalk. The protesters paused once they were across the street from the McDonald’s on Mt. Hope Ave. Organizers rallied the crowd as they hung a pinata of Ronald McDonald from the Mt. Hope sign. To chants of “break that clown,” the pinata was broken open to reveal a flurry of fake dollar bills and pieces of candy. Protesters noted that the McDonald’s had locked its doors, preventing them from going inside and encouraging workers to join the strike.
After gathering at the intersection of Mt. Hope Ave. and Crittenden Dr. for more speeches, protesters dispersed and divided into smaller groups to protest at Wendy’s, Tim Hortons and Burger King.
The group that marched to Burger King chanted inside the store before being asked to leave. They then stayed on the sidewalk outside of the store and continued protesting until a Rochester Police Department car drove up.
Protesters at Wendy’s circled around the store as the doors were being locked, but they were able to enter the store and protest briefly.
Earlier, McDonald’s worker Alexandra Candelaria had told the crowd, “We will not stop until we get what we want and need.”
Lai is a member of
the class of 2018.