April 5, 2013
Fast food workers walk out, seek living wages, union recognition
by: Mark Gruenberg
NEW YORK CITY - Fed up with wages so low that they often face eviction,
and lack of power to fight for a decent living standard, thousands of
New York City fast food workers staged a second one-day walkout from
their jobs, on April 4.
The workers, led by Fast Food Forward, a community-based organizing
group, demanded living wages of $15 an hour - barely enough to survive
on in New York - and the right to organize without employer
interference. It was their second walkout. The first was in November.
The Service Employees gives financial and logistical backing to Fast
Food Forward. The group also sent out a nationwide e-mail asking for
signers on a petition demanding the higher wages and union recognition.
There are 50,000 fast food workers at McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King,
Domino's, Pizza Hut and similar eateries in New York. Most are
immigrants, members of minority groups, or both. The average New York
fast food worker earns $8.25 hourly.
"Right now, the overwhelming majority of workers are paid the minimum
wage or close to the minimum wage," said Fast Food Forward campaign
director Jonathan Westin. "There is no way they can afford rent, can
afford many times to put food on the table or even afford the burgers
"Today we're taking a stand - along with hundreds of other fast food
workers - for a better future," workers said in their nationwide email
alert. "This morning, we walked off the job to demand higher wages and
the right to form a union without intimidation. By standing together for
our families and our communities, we can lift the entire economy and
rebuild America's middle class.
"Fast food workers are living in poverty without enough to meet our
basic needs. Many of us rely on food stamps and some of us live in
homeless shelters. Meanwhile, the $200 billion fast food industry
continues to profit from our work without returning those profits to our
communities and New York City's economy.
"But worst of all, they think we can be ignored. Help us show that we're
not just 'cheap labor,' but men and women who want nothing more than to
be treated with dignity and let to earn an honest living."
The workers deliberately chose April 4 as their walkout day to invoke
the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader was
assassinated 45 years ago that day, in Memphis, Tenn., as he led
sanitation workers there in their campaign for a living wage and the
right to organize with AFSCME. Those workers eventually won.