Fast-food workers and activists with the Stand Up KC and Fight for $15 workers’ rights campaigns spent the last six weekends translating their personal stories of hardship and perseverance into cathartic and sometimes humorous narratives for the stage. Seven of those activists, four of whom are Black, shared these stories for the first time last night (June 22) at Living on the Edge: Stories by the Fast-Food Workers Fighting to Change the Nation.
Borrowing from The Moth Radio Hour’s StorySLAM format, the labor organizers related tales from their jobs, campaigns and homes for a sold-out event at Westport Flea Market restaurant and performance space in Kanas City, Missouri. Many of their pieces draw from racist interactions with employers or strangers—for instance, one from organizer Terrance Wise highlights the time he and his Burger King coworkers confronted a manager who told their Latinx colleague Suzy to “go back to Mexico” with a petition demanding an apology:
We’re here at the job, no signs, no chants, just strength in numbers. And we’re marching in, in unison, hand in hand. I hold the door open while my coworkers file in, and we approach the counter. I tell the manager to come out, we want to speak with her. She sees us, our presence is undeniable. Even customers who are eating turn around to tune in, like “What’s going on here?” That’s always one of my favorite scenes when we storm stores, and the customers’ like [abruptly turns head back, mimicking surprised customers, to audience’s laughter]. That’s kind of what the scene was like. And she saw us, and she stalls. You know, she puts us off, but that’s okay, we stand firm, we’re not going anywhere. We wait on her patiently. Finally, she comes out, and I lead the way. I tell her why we are here today, and what this petition contains: we want an end to this racial discrimination, we want an apology for Suzy and we want it now.
Watch video of Wise’s performance and others from Living on the Edge below, courtesy of Stand Up KC’s Facebook livestreams: