From New York to Chicago and the rest of the country, fast-food workers are letting their voices be heard.
Workers are calling for a $15 hourly wage, the right to form a union without the fear of retaliation and an end to abusive labor practices. Workers from some of New York City’s biggest fast-food chains (including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Domino’s, Papa John’s and KFC) walked out of their jobs. Workers in cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, Flint, St. Louis and Kansas City staged similar walkouts this week.
Inspired by the success of other workplace victories following the initial Chicago fast-food and retail strikes in April 24, workers from new fast-food and retail store locations around downtown Chicago walked out as well.
As the AmNews has reported over the course of the past year, low-wage jobs have accounted for the majority of new jobs added during the economic recovery, with retail and fast-food being among the fastest-growing sectors. In an industry that makes an average of $200 billion annually, most service workers in fast food earn minimum wage and rely of public assistance programs to help feed and provide health care for their children.
Last week, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus jumped in with fast-food and retail workers, clergy and community supporters in Milwaukee to speak out against wage theft and to tell Congress to focus on raising minimum wage and bring better jobs to places in the Midwest.
U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore, Keith Ellison and Danny Davis from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and members of the Raise Up Milwaukee campaign took to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to investigate employers accused of stealing money from workers. The agency is responsible for policing so-called wage theft.
Jonathan Westin, campaign director of Fast-Food Forward, said that the walkouts should inspire others around the city.
“The workers’ actions will lift up all of New York City,” said Westin in an emailed statement. “If they have more money in their pockets, they’ll spend it right here, helping to boost the entire economy.”
Back in May, a report by Fast-Food Forward, “New York’s Hidden Crime Wave: Wage Theft and NYC’s Fast-Food Workers,” stated that 36 percent of workers reported being required to work off the clock; 32 percent of cashiers said that they were required to pay their employer if the register was short; and 30 percent of those who have worked over 40 hours a week said that did not always receive time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours.