Starting today, workers in seven cities will begin the largest fast food worker mobilization in US history. Staff at chains including McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Wendy’s will reportedly walk out in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Flint, Michigan.
Workers are calling on fast food restaurants to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Currently, the average pay in New York is $8.25 per hour and the minimum wage is $7.25.
“I might be doing the work of three people” due to under-staffing, McDonald’s employee Kareem Starks told Salon’s Josh Eidelson, “but still getting paid one wage.” Starks, a 30-year-old former Parks Department employee, said it’s “been hard trying to live off the minimum wage, $7.25, and support my two kids plus pay rent.”
Workers hope to draw attention to a range of issues from low wages to wage theft to McDonald’s recently released budget calculator that insulted and angered many employees struggling to survive on fast food wages.
Jonathan Westin, who directs New York’s Fast Food Forward campaign, told Salon he doubts that national TV outlets would have lingered on the budget story if workers hadn’t forced a debate about the industry by repeatedly going on strike. “The more and more workers continue to take action and continue to publicize their fight,” said Westin, “the more and more it starts to get at the fast food industry’s biggest asset, which is their name brand. And I think that’s what we’re beginning to see in a very real way.”
The action is being organized by Fast Food Forward, a movement of employees from fast food outliers in New York City focused on raising wages and increasing workers’ rights.
The group released the following statement:
In America, people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, childcare and transportation. While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers are barely getting by—many are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job. Raising pay for fast food workers will benefit workers and strengthen the overall economy.