Germantown community stands together for wage increase

Germantown-area residents and political leaders marched on Monday for fair pay at a McDonald’s franchise owned by Derek Giacomantonio at 29 E. Chelten Ave. (Chantale Belefanti/The Philadelphia Tribune)

Germantown-area residents and political leaders marched on Monday for fair pay at a McDonald’s franchise owned by Derek Giacomantonio at 29 E. Chelten Ave. (Chantale Belefanti/The Philadelphia Tribune)

This story originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.

The Germantown community came together on Martin Luther King Day to continue pressuring the owner of a McDonald’s franchise at 29 E. Chelten Ave. to address what participants called wage injustice.

State Sen. Art Haywood along with the Rev. Kent Matthies, who is affiliated with POWER and The Unitarian Society of Germantown, joined the united effort in demonstrating against the stagnant federal and state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Protesters sang the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” as they marched Monday from Uncle Bobbies cafe and bookstore to the McDonald’s franchise owned by Derek Giacomantonio, whose business has been targeted over the past several years.

Their effort was part of “McRaise The Wage” campaign, which wants the fast-food chain and its franchise owners to impose a $15-an-hour minimum pay scale.

“We’re talking about America and we’re talking McDonald’s,” said Matthies. “Dr. King, the year before he was shot, talked about racism, militarism and poverty, and making $7.25 per hour is a poverty rate.

“We must pay a dignified wage for a dignified day of work,” he added. “Anybody who thinks that they can live on $7.25 should try doing it for three months and come back to me.”

Pennsylvania’s minimum wage, which has been in step with the 2009 federal rate of $7.25 an hour, is scheduled to climb in four steps to $9.50 over the next two years. But many other states and cities have put in motion plans to reach the “living wage” mark of $15 an hour in the coming years. New Jersey raised its level to $11 on Jan. 1, and is slated to reach $15 in 2024.

The Philadelphia march united residents and business owners in the frigid cold of January in solidarity for a better economic future.

Nyla Ford, a resident of the city’s Mount Airy section, marched with her infant child.

“We need more people to join this movement because our voices have power and right now there needs to be a power shift because it’s all at the top with the people making the choices that impact us and they don’t even realize what we’re impacted by every day,” said Ford, who left her job last year to become an online business owner.

“They don’t have to live this life. They have millions of dollars. They don’t have to choose between a sandwich or clothes, the basic things,” she said.

Haywood joined the marchers to pressure Giacomantonio, who was unavailable for comment, to take the initiative and raise the minimum wage at his establishment.

The last time the federal minimum wage was raised by Congress was over a decade ago. Thus marking the longest time U.S. lawmakers have allowed the minimum age to go unchanged.

“We will accomplish a loud based neighborhood statement of the people who shop at that store. The people in this neighborhood demand that he raise pay so he can be a good neighbor,” Haywood said.

The Democratic lawmaker, who represents the 4th Senatorial District, says raising the minimum wage will allow shoppers to spend more money at businesses along Chelten Avenue.

“The shoppers would be able to buy more and the businesses would have more funds,” he said.

“I don’t even call it a minimum wage. I call it the starvation level wage,” state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta said about the stagnate federal minimum wage. “We are putting families in a position where they cannot take care of their needs.

“Every state around us has raised the minimum wage,” he said. “Pennsylvania has lagged behind. And to be very clear, we have a number of Republicans who are more committed than they are to poor and working people.”

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