New Yorker article by UW–Madison’s Schirmer reports on ‘fight for $15’ at an Orlando McDonald’s

UW–Madison’s Eleni Schirmer has published an article in the New Yorker reporting on the fight for fair working conditions at an Orlando McDonald’s restaurant.

Eleni Schirmer
Schirmer

Schirmer is a PhD candidate in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies and Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Schirmer’s article, titled “The Fight for $15 at an Orlando McDonald’s,” tells the story of Christian Cardona, a 21-year-old immigrant from Columbia and shift manager at the restaurant, as he and his co-workers grapple with challenges wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and struggle to organize for higher wages and fair working conditions.

Schrimer met Cardona while volunteering for the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC), an effort to support non-unionized workers seeking to organize their workplaces in the face of threats to their safety due to COVID-19.

“Though Cardona had been interested in organizing for some time,” Schirmer explains, “COVID-19 increased his sense of urgency.”

“The McDonald’s at which he works is around the corner from a hospital, and is frequently filled with its staff and patients,” Schirmer writes. “Cardona and his colleagues were nervous; they now saw their customers as potential health threats.”

She continues: “For the first month of the pandemic, few McDonald’s employees were given masks, provided with sufficient hand sanitizer or soap, or trained on social-distancing guidelines, according to a survey of more than eight hundred McDonald’s workers conducted by the Service Employees International Union.”

Floridians have approved a ballot initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage to fifteen dollars per hour by 2026, Schirmer says. Though Cardona acknowledged that this is an important step, he told Schirmer it is “too small and long overdue.”

“We won’t get fifteen for another five years. We need that now,” Cardona said. “When this fight started, in 2012, they were asking for fifteen dollars an hour then. It’s no longer enough. By the time we get fifteen, it’s going to be even less.”

Read the full article at newyorker.com, here.