Religious leaders come out in support of fast-food workers
STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 5/23/2013, 4:30 p.m.
Fast-food workers added another group to their alliance when religious leaders came out in support of a living wage and the right to organize.
Religious figures around the city began preaching a plethora of social justice sermons in local churches, where congregations were mobilized to adopt restaurants in their communities and support the city's estimated 50,000 fast food workers in their fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union.
Last week at an interfaith rally, the clergy coalition announced its first major actions to help fight for the workers' right to organize. It was part of a series of actions which will lead up to the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination on April 4.
"As ministers, we are called to 'do justice and to love mercy,'" said the Rev. Cheri Kroon, associate minister at the Flatbush Reform Church in Brooklyn. "In the neighborhood surrounding our church, on the corner of Flatbush and Church avenues, we are surrounded by fast food, which means that hundreds of our neighbors are working without fair pay, without benefits and without dignity. We cannot turn our eyes away from this injustice. We cannot be silent."
The faith leaders believe that they're following in the footsteps of King, who supported striking sanitation workers in Memphis by demanding that employers pay fast-food workers enough of a salary to support their families, communities and the economy.
Fast-food workers at McDonald's, Burger King, Papa John's, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Wendy's and Domino's are fearlessly fighting for a wage of $15 an hour and the right to form a union. With service jobs on the rise in the current economy, workers are looking to organize themselves so taxpayers won't shoulder the burden of helping low-paying service workers with health care and social services.
Some workers at the rally were touched by the support of the clergy coalition. Tabitha Verges, an employee at a Burger King in Harlem, said, "Faith leaders know that low-wage work is the Civil Rights Movement of our era, and they're not going to stand by and watch as the $200 billion fast food industry pays workers so little, we're forced to rely on food stamps."