Supersized sodas and Happy Meals weren’t the only things on the menu last night at the McDonald’s on 40th and Walnut streets. The Student Labor Action Project was serving up both dance moves and a message on workers’ rights.
Members of Student Labor Action Project protested in front of McDonald’s last night to advocate for the workers’ rights to unionize and make a “living wage” — enough money for someone to live comfortably — as part of the nationwide Fast Food Forward campaign. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which onlooker Joshua Nagel claims “doesn’t seem [to] cut it.”
As part of the campaign, SLAP organized a flash mob at the establishment to the tune of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” The song and dance are being used in the campaign throughout the country, SLAP member and College sophomore Clara Hendrickson said.
“We wanted to coordinate the song and dance nationally in the hopes of making our statement in support of living wages for fast food workers as loud as possible,” Hendrickson said.
The protesters convened at the Button by Van Pelt Library at 8 p.m. Thursday, passing around cookies and admiring elaborate signs with phrases like “McCruelty” and “Can’t Survive on $7.25.” Students practiced the choreography in front of Van Pelt before beginning their raucous march down Locust Walk toward McDonald’s.
Along the way, bystanders stared at the group and sometimes offered words of encouragement. A block away from the restaurant, protesters lifted their fists in solidarity and ended their chants. They entered the McDonald’s in silence and dispersed.
In unison, they danced and sang the lyrics, “What you want, baby I got it. / What you need, you know I got it. / All I’m asking is for a living wage.” Workers and patrons alike stared at the protesters in a sort of amused confusion, some pulling out their phones to record the strange occurrence.
McDonald’s employees declined to comment on the event.
Several food-service workers from Penn Hillel’s Falk Dining Commons joined in the protest as well. Last year, SLAP was heavily involved in securing union representation for the Dining Commons workers.
After the flash mob, the protesters moved outside for a picket rally, chanting to a drum beat and circling the establishment with their signs. A SEPTA bus driver slowed his vehicle, opened his door and started honking in support of their cause.
College freshman Devan Spear, the chant leader of the event, attributed its success to the joyful atmosphere.
“A lot of Penn students come from a position where they don’t need to work in jobs that pay so little,” Spear, a member of SLAP, said. “It’s important to recognize that we have the power to make the change.”
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