Across the street from the Lehi Roller Mills flour mill on Monday, a little boy in a blue polo shirt sat yelling in a high-pitched voice above the sound of the passing traffic and honking of oncoming cars, "Help pay my grandma."
Four-year-old Rashawn Rodriquez was part of a protest against the 106-year-old mill as 10 of its 60 employees called on management to make good on their late paychecks.
For more than a year the mill has been paying all workers late because of revenue shortfalls.
On Thursday and Friday, about a dozen workers did not show up for their shifts in an effort to call attention to the fact they had not been paid for work they had already done. Management staff filled in for the absent workers, who said Monday they thought they had been replaced.
"All I want is a reasonable explanation for not getting my paycheck," said protester Raul Ruiz. "It just does not seem fair."
Inside the plant Monday, company president R. Sherman Robinson acknowledged that paychecks have been late but that most workers knew what the company was facing.
"I came into a situation this morning that I did not anticipate, but at this point there's not much we can do," Robinson said. "It's upon us. We're struggling as a company. We're doing our best to stay in business."
Robinson and the protesting workers said they had not met face-to-face to discuss the pay issues and other matters. But Robinson said Monday the workers had not been terminated and could receive a paycheck on Tuesday (but not all their back pay), then work their next shift Wednesday.
It was not clear how or when the back-pay issue would be resolved.
The mill, once a backdrop in the movie "Footloose," produces around 100,000 pounds of flour a day for wholesale and offers various baking mixes on a retail level.
Robinson said that a combination of the economic downturn and a dispute with a California company over $4.5 million in unpaid purchases that has only recently been resolved led to Lehi Roller Mills' problems. He added that the company has made an effort to pay mill workers before management personnel.
To the protesters, that was not enough. Holding Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets Monday, some had signs that pleaded for KFC to bail out the mill in order to pay workers. For more than 50 years the mill has produced corn bread mix and the breading mix for the fast-food giant's signature fried chicken.
Uriel Martinez said he lost his apartment because of the back-pay issue.
"I owed $300 just in interest, I had to leave," he said.