Labor Unrest Spreads Through Industry as 400 NYC Fast Food Workers Strike More than 60 Restaurants, Demanding $15 and the Right to Form a Union without Retaliation
Walkout Honors Legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. On 45th Anniversary of his Assassination
Four hundreds fast-food workers walked off their jobs at more than 60 NYC restaurants Thursday, marking the largest fast food strike in US history.
“We deserve better," said Glenda Soto, a McDonald's worker. "I work very hard. I’m a single mom, I have 3 kids, and on $7.25 an hour I can’t support them, and I can’t give them the education I want them to have. That hurts all of us."
There are 50,000 fast food workers in NYC— their jobs are the fastest growing in the US, but they're also the lowest paid; fast food workers earn between $10,000 and $18,000 / year– less than half what it costs to support a family in New York City.
Fast food workers often qualify for food stamps and other public assistance, which means that corporations in the $200 billion fast food industry are forcing taxpayers to subsidize their low wages and burdening the US economy.
In March, faith leaders launched their own campaign to support the city's low-wage fast food workers—noting that the majority of jobs gained back in recovery have been low-wage service ones, like fast food. And dozens were out on strike lines Thursday standing in support of the walkout.
"We need to get our economy moving again – and that starts with workers in low-wage service jobs," said Reverend Cheri Kroon of Flatbush Reform Church in Brooklyn.
Faith leaders have historically played crucial roles in campaigns for social justice and economic equality. Thursday's strike coincided with the 45th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, who was killed in Memphis, where he went to support sanitation workers striking for their basic human right to earn a decent living in exchange for full-time work. They believed then, as fast food workers do today, that living wages aren't just a matter of human dignity- they're the only way to get the economy moving again.
“What Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished with the Memphis sanitation strikers took a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and now we’re trying to follow in their footsteps. We’re not looking for a handout, we’re saying we deserve the same things they fought for, to be treated with respect and to earn enough to afford food, rent, and clothing," said Chad Tall, a 20 year old Taco Bell worker who makes $7.50 an hour.
"With money in our pockets, we can support our families, and help the economy grow. Heck, we could finally afford to buy a meal at these restaurants, instead of just serving them," he continued.
Thursday's walkout follows the fast food workers' historic November strike. Today's action, organized by workers part of Fast Food Forward, more than doubled its size, with 400 workers from more than 60 stores.
Fast Food Forward is a movement of NYC fast food workers to raise wages and gain rights at work. It is part of the national movement of low-wage workers fighting for a better future.