NYC Fast Food Workers Strike, Demand 107 Percent Raise

Fast Food workers strike on anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination.Early Thursday, Alterique Hall should have been inside a Midtown Manhattan McDonald's, making burgers. Instead, he stood outside chanting, "We can't survive on $7.25." A McDonald's server for three years, the 24-year-old Hall is participating in a city-wide strike of fast food workers. The chief demand: To raise wages to $15 an hour. By noon, the strike organizers, Fast Food Forward, a coalition of labor activists and workers, confirmed to AOL Jobs that the early turnout meant that the day represented the largest organized action ever for fast food workers.

"We are sick and tired of working like this everyday," Hall tells AOL Jobs, noting he works 30 to 39 hours a week and so doesn't receive benefits. He says all the servers at his McDonald's branch are kept part-time so that the company doesn't have to pay benefits. He earns $8 an hour, but the organizers, Fast Food Forward, a coalition of labor activists and workers, say fast food workers make anywhere from minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $9, which results in an annual salary of about $18,000 a year. The strikers, who are currently not a member of any union, also are demanding full-time hours and benefits.

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The rally is slated to take place at 70 fast food outlets throughout the city on Thursday, including at branches of Burger King and Wendy's. Thursday is also the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which took place in Memphis, a day after King delivered his speech, "I've Been To The Mountaintop" in defense of the city's striking sanitation workers. Organizers are expecting some 400 workers to take part by day's end. Roughly 100 people were at the morning rally at McDonald's branch at 51st and Seventh Avenue, but most were organizers -- not workers, according to organizers. Hall said his colleagues are "intimidated, so they keep working."

Reached by e-mail, McDonald spokeswoman Lisa Labrado defended the company's pay scale.

"Employees are paid competitive wages and have access to a range of benefits to meet their individual needs," she wrote in an e-mail to AOL Jobs.

The day of action is a follow up to similar organizing back in November, when about 200 fast food workers took part in a citywide strike, which was the first such strike of its kind, experts said at the time.

Hall, who is single, says his wage is barely enough to support him. He says he struggles to have enough money on hand for his subway commute and is forced to get by on eating Ramen noodles.

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In speaking to AOL Jobs, Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, one of the main sponsors of the strike, explained why asking for a doubling workers' wages is a reasonable request. (New York legislators have recently agreed to raise the state minimum to $9 by 2016.)

"This is the most expensive city in the country. Fifteen dollars is the minimum for what you need to get by," he said, adding, "It's not reasonable for multibillion corporations who are making record profits to pay this little."

Some surviving members of the Memphis protests are slated to participate in Thursday's protests. In another tribute to the late Dr. King, the organizers have also sought to include local clergy members in the protest. And roughly 100 religious officials have joined the protests, according to the New York Times.

Much of the recent activism surrounding the fast food workers harkens back to the rhetoric and philosophy of the Occupy Movement, launched in the fall of 2011. In addition to holding up workers' salaries in relation to that of the management, the labor activism is seeking to advocate for groups of workers like fast food employees who in the past have not been the focus of the labor movement. (According to report by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner, who has since left the company, earned $8.75 million last year.)

Hall, for his part, is not hoping to make a career out of his job at McDonald's. After finishing high school, the New York-native studied at both a culinary and barber school. But in a difficult economy, he was unable to land a job, and so started working at McDonald's, back in 2010, thinking he'd only be there for six months.

With reporting by Claire Gordon and Muneeza Iqbal.


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7 Comments

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Greg

no fast food workers deserves $15, plain and simple

May 31 2013 at 10:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sue

BULL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Want to make 15 an hour? Accounting jobs with the demands of a degree and years of experience aren't offering 15 an hour these days. When they start making 15 an hour to say "do you want fries with that" is the day I start demanding 40 an hour - oh wait I already bill my clients at 40 an hour. Never mind. But I also have three college degrees and I worked my butt off to get my business to this point.

April 17 2013 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
skc177

All people who work need a living wage,all jobs are important.
What Bankers and CEO's make is disgusting and is an insult to all hard working Americans.

April 15 2013 at 5:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Rose Zelaya

Problem is 90 of workers making the same money in the US anymore, and the companies are filthy rich... my personal thinking is they want slave labor accross the board as in 3rd world countries. Many college graduates are making same because there are no jobs that are paying more--the industrial jobs replaced by machines, and manufacturing sent over seas-- it's out of balance,,, stop looking down at folks trying to make an honest living.

April 15 2013 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Too Smart 2b Liberal

Here is the problem, the liberal mindset... don;t bother working harder to move yourself up, just demand more money for what you do... flipping burgers is not rocket science, it\'s an entry level minimum wage job and not a wage designed to buy a house, a new car and have kids on...if you want more money invest in yourself, get educated and work your way up... do not demand more money just because you failed in life to do better and are stuck at the entry level

and sheesh, stop coveting what someone else makes, a CEO has a few more responsibilities than you do flipping burgers.....

lose the occupy this ot that mentality and put some effort into your life.....

April 15 2013 at 2:29 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Too Smart 2b Liberal's comment
Liz

I'm sure you don't or wouldn't work a 39-hour work week for free....Do you honestly think that people don't try to move up within a company? There's a problem with that too. There are only so many higher up jobs. Not everyone gets the opportunity to fill those jobs.
Oh, and if it wasn't mean tot be a "living wage" job, or a "career", then why the hell does it say "CAREERS" on McDonald's own website for job opportunities? It's not about coveting what someone else has. It's about working 1 hour short of a full work week, and still not being able to make ends meet. Maybe you should stop blaming the victim and start reading. You're not "too smart to be liberal". You're too stupid to do any real research.

April 15 2013 at 8:42 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Liz's comment
hanzlehrke

interesting you are hung up on a word from the company, careers. Every job wants to make their position sound as great as possible to get good people, no question. It is easy to move up in the fast food industry in my past experience. Regardless of what people want, it pays the wage they pay because the job requires very little skill. These jobs are not career jobs like the websites say or like people want them to be. They are entry level jobs for younger people who want the flexible hours and for people who want a little extra cash. Because people decide to live on them is not the company's issue. Personal responsibility. Paying someone $50/hr to flip burgers is nuts, yes I used that number, because why stop at $15/hr????? If you don't like the pay or benefits, find a different job.

April 16 2013 at 8:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

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