A city that matters — St. Louis and Show Me $15

Fast-food workers in St. Louis band together to protest low wages. The average salary of a fast food worker is $19,000.

acitythatmatters_dannieboyd

A regular participant in the Show Me $15 demonstrations poses in front of a St. Louis Hardee’s restaurant while distributing a sheet that explains why demonstrators are protesting in front of the restaurant. DANNIE BOYD

BY DANNIE BOYD | THE NEW TERRITORY ISSUE 03

Our nation has a lengthy history of political activism, from demonstrations against the British in the 1700s to protesting against the Vietnam War in the 1960s. But the theme that stories of activism in the United States seem to follow is that all major demonstrations take place in cities on either the east coast or the west coast, never anywhere in the Midwest. One recent movement that defied this pattern is the ongoing demonstration to raise the national minimum wage. Amongst tension surrounding low-wage jobs arose the Midwestern movement, Show Me $15, which served the purpose of advocating for workers on the lower end of the economic scale.

Beginning in May 2013, I was hired to photograph demonstrations held in St. Louis, Missouri by the Mid-South Organizing Committee, an organization that was focused on raising awareness for low wages paid to workers in the Midwestern and Southern regions of the U.S. I took special interest in this assignment because I was able to identify with the campaign having, myself, worked in the fast-food industry where I made the Missouri minimum wage, which was $6.50 when I first began working.

When the conversation on minimum wage-related protests started, St. Louis was among three cities mentioned in the national media, the others being Chicago and Seattle. If you tuned into CNN, MSNBC, or any other national network you would hear mentions of St. Louis during coverage of “fast-food” related protests (considering that most minimum wage positions are with fast-food restaurants).  I was even contacted about submitting my photos to MSNBC for a newscast. It felt good to hear my city talked about in the big spotlight of national news.


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