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Fast-food workers look to organize

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 5/31/2013, 12:23 p.m.

Fast-food workers have decided to put their respective companies on notice.

Last Friday, New York City fast-food workers walked off the job, launching a strike to protest low wages, low hours, part-time employment and a lack of benefits. These workers left their jobs at places like McDonald's, Wendy's, Domino's and Taco Bell, demanding an increase in wages to about $15. With the U.S. economy becoming more service-based, service workers are one of the last frontiers when it comes to labor organization.

Airing their grievances through an online petition, the workers--known as Fast Food Forward--along with members of New York Communities for Change and representatives from SEIU discussed the who, what, where and why of their protest.

"Fast-food workers in New York City barely make enough to get by," read the explanation. "Many of us make minimum wage--just $7.25 an hour or as little as $11,000 a year. Meanwhile, the Goliath corporations we work for, like McDonald's, Wendy's, Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, are part of a $200 billion industry. These corporations reap huge profits and shower CEOs with exorbitant compensation while most of their employees qualify for food stamps."

According to numbers provided by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), "Hundreds of thousands of workers in New York--mostly women and people of color--struggle to make ends meet on minimum wage earnings. Increasing the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage are key steps toward fair pay for women and people of color in New York."

The NWLC said that a bill passed by the Assembly that would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour would increased the tipped minimum cash wage for food service workers, as both of these wages are indexed to keep pace with inflation nationally.

As the AmNews reported last month, a coalition of activists, clergy, labor leaders and workers across New York state launched a campaign beginning this week pushing for state government to establish what they called a "livable minimum wage."

According to statistics provided by the NWLC, women made up close to two-thirds of all New York workers who were paid the minimum wage or less in 2011. Most of those jobs involved cleaning homes and offices, waiting tables and caring for children and elders. Within that framework, women of color are disproportionately represented among minimum wage workers, with Blacks and Hispanics making up 15 to 16 percent of the workforce, respectively. Women of color are 12 percent of all women in America.