Houston Fast-Food Workers To Strike for $15, Union Rights Ahead of GOP Debate

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Houston Fast-Food Workers To Strike for $15, Union Rights Ahead of GOP Debate

Walkout to Culminate in Massive March on Moores Opera House

The 5.4 Million Texans Paid Less than $15/Hour to Challenge GOP Candidates To Back Higher Pay, Immigration Reform

HOUSTON, Tx. - Houston fast-food workers demanding $15 and union rights announced they will walk off the job Thursday—hours before the GOP debate and less than a week before voters go to the polls on Super Tuesday.  

The walkout will culminate in a massive march and rally outside the Republican debate on the campus of the University of Houston, with striking cooks and cashiers joined by hundreds of home care workers, janitors and other workers fighting for $15 to stress their Fight for $15 Voter Agenda, which includes higher pay, union rights, and comprehensive immigration reform.

Members of a statewide coalition of organizations fighting for racial, economic, immigrant and environmental justice who are telling candidates of all political stripes that they better stand with the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15 will join the workers at the march and rally.

Thursday’s strike and protest follows a wave of walkouts coinciding with presidential primaries that has swept across the country, and comes as low-paying jobs are dragging down communities across Texas: 48% of workers in the state, or some 5.4 million, are paid less than $15/hour—the second highest number in the nation—making the need to raise pay a major issue in the run-up to the primary. Workers, many of whom experience the inhumanity of the nation’s broken immigration system on a daily basis, will also stress the urgent need for immigration reform.

“I spend all day in the kitchen at Burger King, but when I come home at night I have to rely on friends or family for help because I can’t afford my own dinner,” said Janice Talton, 47, a Houston Burger King worker who is paid $8.00 an hour. “I’ve always worried more about finding a place to sleep or feeding my children than I have about politics, but this year that’s changing. By going on strike, fast-food workers have proven that we can win real change, and in November, I’ll be going to the polls to support whoever will stand with us in our fight for $15 and union rights.”

There's something in the air...

“I moved to America from Guatemala in 1990, and for 25 years I’ve never been paid much more than the minimum wage,” said Isaias Sapon, 44, who works at Taco Cabana in Houston. “It’s been nearly impossible to raise my family on a little more than $9 an hour, but the Fight for $15 has shown me that when fast-food workers speak out, companies and politicians respond. That’s why I’m going on strike on Thursday.  I’m also applying for citizenship this year so that I can vote in November for whoever will stand with workers fighting for $15 an hour, union rights, and fair immigration reform." 

Thursday, Feb 25: Schedule of Texas Fight for $15 Strike Actions and Events

Ongoing Media Availability

Striking fast-food workers available throughout the day for interviews. Contact Giovanna or Anna above to arrange.

12pm CT Strike | Burger King at 4212 Richmond, Houston, TX

Striking fast-food workers available for interview. Great visuals including strike signs, chanting, marching.

5pm CT Protest at GOP Debate | Cullen Blvd and Elgin Street, University of Houston, Houston, TX

Massive crowd of underpaid workers will march on the GOP debate.

Everywhere candidates go this primary season, workers in the Fight for $15 are following them, forcing White House hopefuls to address the demands of the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15, drowning out supporters for the individual candidates:

  • South Carolina: One week before the GOP primary, fast-food workers in Greenville, S.C., waged their first-ever strike and marched on the GOP debate, with 1,000 underpaid workers calling for $15/hour and union rights. In January, a walkout by hundreds of fast-food workers in Charleston, S.C.,prompted a statement of support by the Democratic National Committee and animpromptu visit from  Sen. Bernie Sanders, who grabbed a bullhorn and  praised the strikers just moments before he took the floor for that night’s Democratic debate.  
  • New Hampshire: Days ahead of the New Hampshire primary, fast-food workers across the Granite State waged their first-ever strike, which culminated in a massive protest outside a GOP debate in Manchester. ABC News, filming live from the debate site, reported, “The volume was just turned up quite a bit out here, but it’s not actually GOP supporters: a big group with signs saying the Fight for $15 – they want a $15/hour minimum wage – came in and took over the place.”
  • Iowa: Ahead of the Iowa caucus, fast-food workers in the state walked off the job for the first time, and a massive crowd of more than a thousand workers stormed the lobby of the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, drawing widespread attention hours before a GOP debate that evening.
  • Milwaukee: In November, following a nationwide strikein 270 cities and an evening protest outside the GOP debate in Milwaukee, thefirst questiondirected at candidates that night asked them to respond to the demands of fast-food workers seeking $15 and union rights. And earlier this month, hundreds of workers crashed the Democratic debate’s media center an hour before the forum kicked off. “The protest was comprised largely of young, black fast food workers from Wisconsin, where 46 percent of workers make less than $15 hourly,” Yahoo News reported.

As the Fight for $15 builds a political front ahead of the 2016 election, the New York Times and USA Today have both warned candidates who ignore the growing movement that they do so “at their own peril.” Meanwhile, the Associated Press said underpaid workers are flexing, “increasingly potent political muscle,” and BuzzFeed has said they “could make up a powerful new voting bloc.”

Ahead of the election, workers will continue to collect signatures on their Fight for $15 Voter Agenda, a five-point platform that launched late last year and calls for $15 and union rights, affordable child care, quality long-term care, racial justice and immigration reform—issues identified by underpaid workers as key factors in whether they will go to the polls for a candidate. They will put politicians on notice that, as a voting bloc, workers paid less than $15 could swing elections all across the country.

“I got into home care because I wanted to go to bed each day knowing I had made a difference in my community,” said Shaunta Agniel, who cares for three clients in Houston and is paid $8.50 an hour. “Sixteen years later, I’m still getting paid less than $9 an hour and can’t afford basic necessities and have to work sick because I can't afford to go to the doctor. Enough is enough. Any candidate who wants Houston voters needs to stand with our communities’ caregivers and support $15.”

A recent poll of workers paid less than $15/hour commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union; and that 65% of registered voters paid less than $15/hour would be more likely to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union. That’s 48 million potential voters paid less than $15 who could turn out if there were candidates who backed higher pay and union rights.

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Fast food workers are coming together all over the country to fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. We work for corporations that are making tremendous profits, but do not pay employees enough to support our families and to cover basic needs like food, health care, rent and transportation.

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