Fast food workers across New York City hit the streets today in a strike against the $200 billion fast food industry, which workers charge pays wages so low that many struggle to meet their basic needs.
The workers who are employed within one of the world's most expensive cities and work in several restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Domino’s and Taco Bell, have been organizing with groups such as Fast Food Forward and many other organizations to fight for livable wages and for the right to unionize.
Their ultimate goal is to raise wages to $15-an-hour from minimum wage pay and to gain recognition for their independent union, the Fast Food Workers Committee.
According to Fast Food Forward, while the fast food industry currently grosses $200 billion annually, and the average daily salary of most fast food CEO's is $25,000, the average fast food worker only makes 11,000 per year, or roughly 25 percent of the money required to survive in NYC.
Organizers say most workers are forced to supplement their income with public assistance. This externalizes business costs onto American taxpayers, while the international corporations run away with multibillion dollar profits.
The strike is the first multi-corporation strike by fast-food workers in US history.
The New York Times reports that the first walkout took place at 6:30 a.m. at a McDonald’s on Madison Avenue and 40th Street. Several dozen workers and supporters, including 14 of the 17 employees scheduled to work the morning shift that day, lined up outside of the restaurant chanting, “Hey, hey, what do you say? We demand fair pay.”
“We don’t get paid for what we do. It really is living in poverty,” Raymond Lopez, 21, an aspiring actor who has worked at McDonald’s for over two years told The Times.
“The fast-food industry employs tens of thousands of workers in New York and pays them poverty wages,” said Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change. “A lot of them can’t afford to get by. A lot have to rely on public assistance, and taxpayers are often footing the bill because these companies are not paying a living wage."
If successful, the move to unionize will be the first to do so across several fast food chains, and could be the largest of its kind.
"For so long, a lot of labor and other folks have avoided these industries because they thought they were too low wage, too hard to organize, and now our economy has become an economy of mostly low wage service jobs," Westin told the Atlantic.
"It was the same thing when they were organizing factories in the early 1900s. They organized those factories and lifted an entire segment of the population into the middle class. This could happen here. We could lift an entire segment of the US population out of poverty and into the middle class."
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