Fast-Food Workers: My Protest Paid Off

Krystal Maxi-CollinsBy Emily Jane Fox

From Part-Time To Full-Time:
Krystal Maxi-Collins, 29, worked at the Macy's department store off and on for two years, and was frustrated that she wasn't made a full-time employee. Her pay wasn't enough to support her family of four, so she worked a second job. When she asked her manager for a promotion earlier this year, she was passed over.

So Collins (pictured above) joined other retail and fast-food workers on April 24 in a rally outside of Chicago's Union Station asking their employers to give them better hours, wages and benefits. Soon after the rally, Collins' manager offered her a full-time position in the Macy's shoe department. Collins' pay went from $8.25 to $8.50 an hour, she was eligible for full benefits and her hours were bumped up to at least 32 per week.

"It makes you feel empowered," said Collins, who doesn't need to work a second job anymore and can spend more time with her family. "I didn't understand the power that people have when they speak up."

More: The Reality Of Working In The Fast Food Industry

Fired, Then Rehired, After Speaking Out:
Eddie Guzman needed to work at least 20 hours a week to be eligible for welfare programs, such as food stamps and affordable housing. But his requests for more hours at a Brooklyn Burger King were met with deaf ears. Guzman's managers kept his working hours between 12 and 15 a week.

Tired of waiting, Guzman (pictured above) joined a protest and signed a petition in March advocating for more hours and better pay. Two weeks later, he was fired. Guzman said that his manager told him that signing the petition disrespected him. One of the restaurant's managers, Imran Ali, said that Guzman was fired because he didn't give the store enough notice before not showing up for a shift.

"I didn't want to let them take advantage of me and not do anything about it," Guzman said. "I couldn't believe that I got fired just for that."

But community organizers and New York city council member Brad Lander went to the Burger King to ask for his job back. "New York's fast food workers have courageously stood up for fair pay and treatment and I've been honored to stand with them," Lander said.

Within days, Guzman had his job back and was scheduled to work at least 20 hours per week. "I wanted better for myself," he said.

More: McDonald's Server Would Need To Work 550 Years To Earn CEO's Pay

Her Weekly Hours Were Bumped Up:
Claudette WilsonClaudette Wilson had asked her manager for more hours and a raise for months, but he kept saying no. But just one day after joining a protest in Detroit, Wilson's hours were boosted to 35 from 25 per week.

"It gives me hope that I can stand up and make a change," Wilson (pictured above) said. "It means a lot less stress for me."

For Wilson, the change is a huge help. She started working as a crew member cooking and cleaning at Burger King three years ago, when she was 17. She worked 25 hours per week, making $7.40 an hour, while also attending school four days studying music production. Her wages were barely enough to cover the gas bill for her car.

"On top of my car, gas and insurance, I have to start paying my loans back in September," she said.

Wilson's store manager did not respond to requests for comment. Burger King said in a statement that the hiring, firing or other employment-related decisions are made by its franchisees.

More: McDonald's Pushes Employees To Be Cheerier

After Eight Years, A Promotion!
Robert Wilson Jr.Robert Wilson spent eight years showing new employees the ropes and training others to get better positions at McDonald's. But he was never able to move up the ranks himself. That was until he and other workers rallied on Black Friday outside of the location where he worked in Chicago's Navy Pier.

His managers saw Wilson protesting. The very next day, they told him that the position he had been gunning for was finally open. "They told me I was promoted and increased my pay to $8.60 an hour from $8.35," Wilson (pictured above) said. "I see a difference. I do feel better about things."

Wilson said that he joined the movement because he felt that he wasn't getting the respect that he deserved. His wages also weren't enough to pay for simple things -- such as a medical bill when he contracted pneumonia last year and had to shell out $200 for a prescription. "My job wasn't giving me what I needed to fulfill my basic needs," he said.

McDonald's and his store manager did not respond to requests for comment.


Lunchtime Live - The Reality of Working in the Fast Food Industry.M4v



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45 Comments

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Jake

Stop having kids, go to school, learn a trade, do something real. Flipping burgers was never intended to support a family. It's there to help young adults get through school.

November 14 2013 at 10:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kendradad

Would love to see where these people are in a year. :)

November 14 2013 at 9:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DUKE

Was this people paid by the company they work for to say such none since. * cent raise after eight years he feel good out it ? What is he smoking? going from 25 hours a week to 35 aweek and she says she feel like she did something wiyh no raise what college she graduated from because all they did was take her money she did learn nothing! Going from 15 hour to 20 geting his job back just to get on welfare? what is he on? A mother of four went from 8.25 to 8.50 working full time now with that low pay and the insurance getting taken out her pay is going to be lower now than ever before . Who ever got these people to say these stupid thinks like it make since stop it because not everybody that read this is on dope or stupid. THESE PEOPLE DID NOT ACCOMPLISH NOTHING!!!!!!!!!

November 14 2013 at 7:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ceking19182

Greetings:

I wonder if some one could not get an economist/accountant to provide a breakdown on the cost of operating one of these fast food companies and then show the public how much an employee could safely be paid without negatively effecting the profit base of the company. Show then how they could make a comfortable profit while still giving the employee a decent wage. This would be more helpful to all.

November 14 2013 at 7:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Xhapytrkr

needed to work at least 20 hours a week to be eligible for welfare programs, such as food stamps and affordable housing.

June 06 2013 at 2:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jacksonville Fl

To get a 25 cent an hour raise and not have work your part time job. I would love to know what that part time job was.

June 05 2013 at 8:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Taina

$8.50 per hour and a 32 hour week. Sad that it is an improvement.

June 05 2013 at 2:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dave1marine

I suppose if your ultimate goal in life is to work in the fast food business, a 50 cent raise is earth shaking news. Those with even an OUNCE of ambition and intelligence use those jobs as a mere (temporary) stepping stone on their journey towards gainful careers. To those demanding $15.00 p.h. & benefits for flipping burgers? Good luck, but you'd probably stand a better chance at getting a job with the IRS.

June 05 2013 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dave1marine's comment
Bennie

Not everyone has privilege.

June 05 2013 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bennie's comment
SauronHimself

You're right, but the lack of privilege is not an excuse to remain mediocre. I was born into a lower middle class family where my dad was a non-college-educated elevator mechanic, and my mom was a college-educated but grossly underpaid organ player for various churches. My older sister and I represent a clear-cut example of how one's personal work ethic dictates where you go and not if you're privileged. My sister was a B/C student who still went to college and majored in theatre with a minor in music. For the eight years since she graduated she has hopped from job to job barely making ends meet. For her $30k/year is an expectation and not something she'd break any time soon. I, on the other hand, was not satisfied being a mediocre student. I got straight A's and was awarded an NROTC scholarship through RPI. I got my physics degree and served as a naval officer, and now I work as an engineer making integrated circuits. I'm paid over 2.5 times what my sister makes. While neither of were born into privilege, we clearly made choices as to where we wanted to end.

June 19 2013 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
eervin1977

SMH.
From $8.25 to $8.50 an hour: still absolutely no money to live on.
$8.60 an hour from $8.35: still chicken feed.
I worked at McDonald's MY FREAKING JUNIOR AND SENIOR YEARS IN HIGH SCHOOL. I made $4.15 an hour. I didn't care because (1.) I lived with my parents at the time and didn't have any responsibilities (children, car, bills, etc.) and (2.) my plan was to not be there for the long haul.
It was just something to put a little--and I do mean little--spending money in my pocket. I went to college, got my degree and landed jobs that started out at least 5 times more pay than what I was making at McDonald's. Of course, the jobs came with full benefits. My current job, which I've been with for more than 5 years, pays even more.
People should use these types of jobs for why they are created: something to help you better yourself. Stop whining and having a pity party.
Create a plan and put it into motion. Each time I travel back home to my hometown I see some of the same people I worked with at McDonald's FREAKING 18 YEARS AGO!!!!!!! Are they crying about what they make and why they haven’t been promoted? I’m sure they are.
You can't get mad at fast-food restaurants, retail stores and other businesses with dead-end jobs that pay chicken feed. THEY HAVE A FREAKING DOLLAR MENU!!!!! How much do you expect to get paid making a $1 sandwich?
The smart thing to do is work the dead-end job while putting into motion a plan that will allow you to walk in one day and say, "I'm giving my two-week notice that I'm terminating my employment with McDonald's." Or Burger King, Subway, etc., etc., etc. Where ever dead-end job you might work.

June 05 2013 at 12:57 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to eervin1977's comment
georgettec28

Not everyone has the abilities or opportunities that you had to better themselves. Don't look down on folks who will never be able to to do the jobs that you can do. Not everyone is a rocket scientist. Someone has to work these jobs. What they are asking for is not over-the-moon, just a decent wage with enough hours to pay their bills.

June 06 2013 at 5:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to georgettec28's comment
eervin1977

I'm not looking down on folks who have low-paying jobs. The point I'm trying to get across is that you're paid according to the job you perform. These jobs require no skills and education, so it's the reason why they pay chicken feed.
Anyone can flip burgers, including unskilled and uneducated high school students, so it's not going to pay lots of money.
Pardon my use of words, but someone who flips burgers at McDonald's does not deserve the same pay as someone who went to school, studied, worked hard and got their degree.
Yeah, growing up I had the abilities and opportunities that everyone doesn't have as a child. However, I strongly believe that life is what you make it. My dad paid for my college tuition, but had I not had a dad then I would have gotten a job and financial assistance to pay for school.
Where there's a will, there's a way.
Besides, when you reach a certain age it doesn't matter how you grow up and what your parents did or didn't do for you.
Yes, I agree with you that everyone is not a rocket scientist. I'm not one. However, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to make a decent living. However, you can't make a decent wage flipping burgers at McDonald's. It’s just not going to happen.
People have been successful without college degrees. Go to trade school and learn how to be an electrician, plumber, mechanic, etc. College is not for everyone.
Use McDonald's and other low-paying jobs for what it's worth: something to help you better yourself. Now, if you made bad decisions such as having kids before you were prepared--financially and mentally--it's no one's fault but your own and it's going to be hard taking care of them on a McDonald's wage.
Oh, well. It's the choice you made.

June 07 2013 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
djs8888

What a bunch of crap. This is nothing more than a promotion for protesting. Little if anything was gained here. Obamacare is the number one factor workers are losing there hours. Companies can't afford to provide healthcare benefits, especially with what is now required under Obamacare. Stop shooting the messenger, the real problem is this administration.

June 05 2013 at 10:25 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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