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Fast-food workers to walk out and strike Thursday

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 6/13/2013, 3:57 p.m.

Last Thursday, fast-food workers looking to organize met with history when workers from the 1968 Memphis sanitation department (who went on strike) met to provide words of encouragement and inspiration in Midtown.

The workers shared their experiences of working for poverty wages, collecting food stamps and not being able to provide for their families--despite being full-time employees. The 1,100 Memphis garbage men on strike were receiving assistance from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their quest for fair wages. King was gunned down while in Memphis helping labor. Alvin Turner, a Memphis sanitation worker, talked about pursuing the task at hand and knowing the risks.

"What I knew I had to do--I had to stand up and be a man," Turner said. "If you're going to win anything, you're going to have to stand up and be counted. If you do stand up, you're opening the door for someone else."

Chad Tall, a 20-year-old Taco Bell employee, talked about building upon the foundation that the Memphis sanitation workers established.

"What they accomplished took a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and now we're trying to follow in their footsteps," Tall said. "We're not looking for a handout; we're saying we deserve the same things they fought for, to be treated with respect and to earn enough to afford food, shelter and clothing."

Fast-food jobs are some of the fastest growing jobs in the United States (there are 50,000 fast-food workers in New York City alone), but they typically earn between $10,000 and $18,000 annually. As a result, local fast-food workers have decided to stage one of the biggest fast-food worker strikes in history. This Thursday morning, starting at the McDonald's at 1651 Broadway (between 51st and 52nd streets), workers will walk out of their businesses and strike for living wages. There will be 400 workers at 60 different stores around the city doing the same thing.

Glenda Soto, a McDonald's worker, spoke about wanting to provide her children with the life she didn't have and how she can't do that with her current wage.

"We deserve better," said Soto. "I work very hard. I'm a single mom, I have three kids, and on $7.25 an hour, I can't support them, and I can't give them the education I want them to have."