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Fast food workers go on national strike Aug. 29, continue demand for $15 an hour

Misani | 8/29/2013, 9:49 a.m. | Updated on 8/29/2013, 9:49 a.m.
Fast food worker's strikers at the McDonald's in Times Square on April 4, 2013 Photo by Courtenay Brown

Today, fast-food workers all around the country staged yet another walkout to rally in favor of a living wage and better benefits—with New York leading the charge.

Workers from all over the country staged a pre-Labor Day walkout in 50 cities, including New York; Boston; Chicago; Denver; Hartford, Conn.; Houston; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; Oakland, Calif.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Tampa, Fla.

In New York, workers from businesses like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Papa John’s, Domino’s and Checkers joined with clergy, elected officials and community supporters to take to voice their grievances.

In statements sent to the AmNews, workers of different cities pontificated on the importance of their voice being heard.

“It’s wrong for big corporations to make billions of dollars in profits and pay millions of dollars to their CEOs while us workers barely scrape by on minimum wage,” said Latrice Arnold, a 27-year-old mother of two who works at a Wendy’s in Detroit and earns the Michigan state minimum wage of $7.40 an hour. “It’s time for these big fast-food and retail companies to pay up. They can afford to pay us more and have a responsibility to ensure the workers who keep their businesses booming don’t live in poverty.”

In New York City, the median wage among fast-food workers is $8.89 an hour—the lowest of any occupation in the city. According to a “living wage calculator” put together by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier at the Masschusettes Institute of Technology’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, an adult who cares for one child and works full-time in New York City would need to make $24.69 an hour to meet basic needs.

Fast food in America is a $200 billion a year industry, but most service workers earn minimum wage or slightly above it. Many workers are forced to rely on public assistance programs to make sure their children receive health care. The national median wage for cooks, cashiers and crew at fast-food restaurants is $8.94 an hour. While major fast-food companies claim that these jobs are stepping stones to better ones, a recent report by the National Employment Law Project revealed that managerial positions make up only 2.2 percent of all jobs in the fast-food industry.

Terrance Wise, a 34-year-old father of three who makes $9.30 an hour after eight years at Burger King and $7.47 at a Pizza Hut in Kansas City, said that he hopes everyone who works in fast food fights back for what he feels is rightfully theirs.

“If you work in a fast-food or retail store anywhere in the country, we urge you to join our growing movement,” said Wise. “Get together with some or all of your co-workers and make plans to take to the streets on Aug. 29. Encourage your friends, family and neighbors to do the same. The more of us who go on strike that day, the louder our message will be that it is not right for companies making billions in profits to pay their workers pennies.”

Last week, Service Employees International Union released a video on their website calling for today’s strike. Only time will tell if these strikes resonate and effect change in the fast-food industry.