Calls for Dignity Grow as Low-Wage Workers Gear Up for Nationwide Strike
Historic movement of retail and restaurant workers expected to mobilize largest walkout yet, spanning both coasts
Fast-food and retail workers across the U.S. are gearing up for a one-day nationwide strike Thursday expected to be even bigger than the last, as the tide of people demanding an end to poverty wages continues to rise.
The walk-out, organized by a coalition of community organizations and workers' centers as well as the Service Employees International Union, is expected to sweep at least 35 cities as thousands of workers demand workplace dignity, the right to unionize, and a living wage that would double the national minimum wage that sits at $7.25 an hour.
Predicted to be the largest such action since fast-food workers launched a strike in New York last November, workers will walk out from coast to coast, including southern cities.
"I work hard and I deserve to make enough to meet my family's basic needs," McDonald's worker Dwight Murray told The Nation. "I struggle to get my 3-year-old daughter what she needs, and we have to make sacrifices on a regular basis. I'm going on strike because I deserve to make a liveable wage and to be able to take care of my daughter and even have money saved up for emergencies."
While low wages have long plagued fast-food and retail industries, workers have been further devastated by trends since the Great Recession towards more low-wage jobs with fewer benefits and fewer hours. Across the U.S., fast-food employees work an average of 24 hours a week, further lowering their take-home wages, and nearly 25 percent of all jobs in the U.S. pay below the poverty wage for a family of four.
While strikers have already achieved victories since last November, including small wage increases, organizers say there is still much left for the growing movement to accomplish.
“These companies that own these fast food restaurants, they make way too much money off the backs of the employees,” Church's Chicken worker Dearius Merritt told Time. “I’m in the store every day with these workers that make $7.25… If I’m 30 years old and this is what I have to do to survive, then I deserve a living wage off of it.”
To track preparations and perspectives on Thursday's strike, the #829strike hashtag was being used on Twitter: