Workers from two Smithsonian Institution museum eateries staged a one-day strike calling for the federally funded museums to ensure they are paid a "living wage."
The employees walked off their jobs and marched from the National Air and Space Museum to the Smithsonian Castle at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The protest and press conference were followed by a performance -- activists portraying Ronald McDonald and Uncle Sam climbed into bed together. Organizers say they are demonstrating against "the exorbitant amount of reimbursement contractor CEOs receive from the federal government, while paying workers at or below the minimum wage."
Protestor Travis Dupree of Our DC said, "The easiest solutions is for the CEOs to take a few less million dollars and pay the people running their businesses a livable wage."
The workers protesting Thursday are employed by McDonald's Corp. and Restaurant Associates, which operate museum restaurants on the National Mall. Organizers say the strike includes restaurant workers from the National Museum of American History and the space museum.
The workers, supported by the Good Jobs Nation campaign, will also submit a letter to Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough calling for higher wages and paid holidays that other workers receive.
They cite the Smithsonian's $30 million in profits from business units. However, the Smithsonian has also been hit by sequester budget reductions, with an approximately $40 million cut in funding. The Smithsonian said in February that museum hours would not be reduced and the institution would absorb the costs in other ways.
This is the latest in a string of protests by service workers at federal buildings.
Back in May, about 200 federally contracted workers staged strikes around D.C. to protest their low wages. Workers protested outside the Reagan Building, the American History Museum, and Columbus Circle at Union Station. Speakers called on President Obama to issue an executive order, forcing companies with federal contracts to pay a living wage.
Thursday afternoon, the Smithsonian tweeted about the protests:
(1 of 3) We hear the food workers’ concerns about wages. — Smithsonian (@smithsonian) July 11, 2013
(2 of 3) Smithsonian restaurants are operated by outside companies that must comply with all local and federal laws. — Smithsonian (@smithsonian) July 11, 2013
(3 of 3) Those companies are responsible for making wage and benefit decisions for their workforce. — Smithsonian (@smithsonian) July 11, 2013
The protest comes a day after the D.C. Council approved a living wage bill, which would require big-box retailers to pay their employees a minimum of $12.50 an hour. The bill now goes to Mayor Vincent Gray, who may sign it into law or veto it.
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