13 Arrested During Hartford Fast Food Worker Protest

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Connecticut state lawmakers have become the first in the country to pass legislation increasing the state's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, the same rate President Barack Obama wants for the federal minimum wage.

Thirteen people were charged with disorderly conduct in Hartford on Thursday as local fast-food workers rallied during a nationwide push to earn wages of $15 per hour.

Fast-food workers rallied in more than 150 cities around the country, including Hartford and New Haven.

According to a news release from Connecticut Working Families, employees of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Dunkin Donuts and other franchises began striking on Thursday at 11:30 a.m.

Protesters in Hartford gathered at 172 Washington Street.

“Every man has a struggle, but I’m fighting to fix my struggle,” said Sal Lopez, an employee of McDonald's in Hartford, in a news release from Connecticut Working Families. “I’m going to fight corporate to fix my future. I’m going to stand proud for $15 and a union.”

Police said the 13 arrested protesters sat in the road on Washington Street around 12:10 p.m. and refused to leave, despite three separate orders from the incident commander.

The northbound lanes of Washington Street in Hartford were closed between Park and Jefferson streets, according to Hartford police. The protest is over, the street has reopened and the crowd has since dispersed.

All 13 people arrested have been released and are due in court on Sept. 12:

Police identified the people who were charges as:

  • Kenya Williams, 40, of Providence, Rhode Island
  • Salvador Lopez, 22, of New Britain
  • Samuel Velez, 22, of Hartford
  • Kevin Burgos, 27, of Hartford
  • Jelani Burrell, 24, of Bloomfield
  • Joann Gesterling, 55, of Cranston, Rhode Island
  • Reginald Davis, 25, of Providence, Rhode Island
  • Starria Oliveira, 36, of Providence, Rhode Island
  • Charles Jones, 52, of Providence, Rhode Island
  • Richard Robinson, 27, of Wethersfield
  • Stacy Williams, 26, of Providence, Rhode Island
  • Corey Donaldson, 18, of Warwick, Rhode Island
  • Jamileth Anes, 18, of Hartford

“Time and time again, [McDonald’s] and other industry players have tried to sidestep workers’ calls, inventing a make-believe world in which responsibility for wages and working conditions falls squarely only on the shoulders of the franchisees, not the corporations that control how food is served and priced,” said Taylor Leake, communications director for Connecticut Working Families, in the release.

Fast-food workers in Seattle are now earning $15 per hour, a feat attributed to a campaign that began in New York City, when 200 fast food employees walked out in November 2012.

The National Restaurant Association released a statement about the demonstrations.

"This is a national, multi-million dollar campaign engineered, organized and funded by national labor groups. The activities have proven to be orchestrated union PR events where the vast majority of participants are activists and paid demonstrators. This is nothing more than labor groups' self-interested attempts to boost their dwindling membership by targeting restaurant employees. We hope labor organizers will not escalate with aggressive tactics or intimidation, and will act with respect toward our customers and employees," the statement says. "Restaurants continue to be a critical employer that trains America's workforce and provides a pathway towards upward mobility and success."

Fast food employees protested in a similar strike in May, two months after Connecticut became the first state to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

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