thousands of workers in seven american cities went on strike, demanding wages for $15/hour and the right to unionize. building on the momentum of an initial strike last november in new york city, organizers say dozens of restaurants in chicago, detroit, flint, kansas city, milwaukee, new york city and st. louis will be affected by waves of worker walkouts over the course of the week.
"these workers need a raise and they need representation in the workplace," said martin rafnan, community director for stl735. the acronym stands for "st. louis can't survive on $7.35," referring to missouri's minimum wage. rafnan said the group, which plans to strike today and tomorrow, hopes to build on a strike last may, when about 100 workers walked off the job.
rafnan said, "in this particular set of actions this week, we're expecting to strike 50 stores and between 100 and 200 workers." he added the response to the strike in may was greater than anticipated - the group only expected 40 or 50 workers to walk out. rafnan said, "it ended up being a much bigger thing."
today's action could see 500-plus workers at dozens of new york city fast food restaurants abandoning their posts for picket lines, said jonathan westin, director of fast food forward and executive director of new york communities for change. at a mcdonald's across the street from yankee stadium, several dozen people chanted, "we can't survive on $7.25."
in april, 400 fast food employees walked off the job in new york. at twice the size of the group's inaugural walkout last november, local organizers called that event the biggest fast food strike in the country - until now. these actions are designed to call attention to "the contradictions between the folks at the top...and the workers themselves living in poverty," westin said.
spokespeople from mcdonald's and yum brands (parent company of kfc, pizza hit and taco bell) referred questions to their trade group, the national restaurant association. bob bertini, a company spokesperson, said, "burger king restaurants offer compensation and benefits that are consistent with the qsr industry." he also said, "wendy's is still assessing the situation...we have no additional comment."
this week's actions were fueled by a publicly criticized budget guide for mcdonald's workers recommending they get a second job and save $20/month for health insurance. also, a report by the national employment law project shows the vast majority of fast food positions are dead-end jobs. the group's earlier research found nearly 60% of post-recession job creation was for work paying $13.83/hr. or less.
an open letter was signed by more than 100 economists and published this month by the university of massachusetts, amherst's political economy research institute. the letter is titled, "economists in support of a $10.50 u.s. minimum wage." the economists strongly believe raising wages would add just five cents to the price of a big mac.
the general perception of a fast food worker is a teenager with extra spending money. but the average age of today's fast food worker is 32, the letter said, which has much grimmer implications. "if a worker today is employed full time for a full 52-week year at a minimum wage job today, she or he is making $15,080. this is 19% below the official poverty line for a family of three," the letter also said.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.