Hundreds Of Fast Food Workers Strike In 7 Cities

Fast food workers protest for improved in conditions in Kansas City. Both Terrance Wise and his fiancee each work two jobs. But the income from the four gigs is not enough for the 34-year-old Wise and his family to actually pay for their own home. And so Wise (pictured at right, at the microphone) considers himself "homeless" as his household floats between homes owned by friends and family around Kansas City, Mo. In what sector could a worker pull double-duty and still not have enough income to afford shelter?

Wise is a crew member in the fast food industry, and puts in around 25 hours a week at Burger King and about the same amount at Pizza Hut. His salary varies from $7.47 an hour at Pizza Hut (which is owned by Yum Brands) to $9.30 an hour at Burger King. Workers throughout the fast food industry regularly earn hourly wages close to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. (His fiancee, he says, works low-wage jobs in the retail industry.)

On Monday, Wise joined the estimated 160 fast food workers who walked out on their jobs in the Kansas City area, according to local reports. Hundreds of workers also walked off their jobs in New York and St. Louis. At rallies in Kansas City, workers and activists screamed slogans like, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, poverty wages got to go." The activism is part of a seven city-campaign over the following four days in which fast food workers are planning similar activities. Organizing by workers in Kansas City, in addition to similar plans for later in the week in Flint, Mich., mark the first time in recent memory that these two Midwestern cities are being targeted by striking fast food workers.

The other five cities (New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, and Milwaukee) on the organizers' agenda already have seen rounds of protests since fast food workers began rallying for improved conditions starting in November in New York. (See map below.) Protest organizers, which include the Service Employees International Union and local affiliates, expect the campaign to mark the largest coordinated strike in industry history with thousands of workers taking part. The workers are calling for a doubling of the minimum wage to $15, as well as the granting of full-time benefits for workers.

For Wise, who says that he's been working in the fast food and retail industries for a total of 18 years, the activism is a long time coming. "For years, I have thought, why don't workers in this industry have a voice? I can't do this alone," he told AOL Jobs in an interview. "But when I saw a movement spread across the country, I thought, 'Sign me up.' "


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In speaking to AOL Jobs, Wise said that he has seen working conditions get worse over the course of his career. When he first began working in fast food at Taco Bell (which is also owned by Yum Brands) he said that he'd regularly find jobs that came with 50-hour-a-week schedules. But now managers are slashing workers' hours to below 30 per week, in what he says is known by workers as the "Obama dodge." (Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," employers are only required to provide health insurance for part-time workers once they work more than 30 hours a week.)

Yum Brands has not responded to a request from AOL Jobs for an interview. But an unsigned email from the Burger King media relations team said that franchisees are responsible for hiring and schedules at their branches. The email also said that the company provides "an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans" and provides "compensation and benefits that are consistent with the "industry." And in speaking to Salon.com, the vice president of Domino's Pizza, Tim McIntyre, said via email, "Opportunity exists for everyone in our system who's willing to work hard and focus on rising to the next level."

That defense of the wage model at fast food companies, however, was contradicted by a report released last week by the left-leaning National Employment Law Project. As AOL Jobs reported, NELP's study found that managerial jobs comprise just 2.2 percent of all positions in the fast food sector. As a result, NELP concluded, workers have "virtually no chance of advancement" in the field.

During his nearly two decades of fast food work, Wise says that his own career advancement has been stymied. He began working in the field at age 15, hoping that he could save money to study journalism. But he's been unable to find time to attend college, and picked up work as a Burger King crew member in 2005. He said that he was appointed as an assistant branch manager in 2008, but he was passed over for higher management positions. Yet, he said, he often had to teach his new bosses how to manage the restaurant. And so out of frustration, he briefly quit three years ago, but had to return to try and earn money for his family.


More: Fast-Food Restaurant Pays $12 An Hour To 'Culinarians'


In the lead-up to the Monday protest, Wise said that his managers at Burger King tried to discourage workers from participating. "I hope you're not part of these strikes because I know you're smarter than that," he claimed his managers, whom he preferred not to name, said to him. (Local media reports indicate that no arrests were made during the Monday protests.)

Fast food companies have also been scrutinized of late for actions taken on the national level. As AOL Jobs reported, McDonald's budgeting website was created to to help its workers get "on track." But with an average worker with one child making roughly $1,105 from their fast food job a month, the worker is likely to fall into $1,548 of debt each month, even if he or she picks up a second job.

In recent years, however, the management at fast food companies has seen their own fortunes increase. As The New York Times reported on Sunday, the median pay for chief executives at the nation's top corporations increased 16 percent in the past year alone, according to Equilar, an executive compensation analysis firm. In the fast food field alone, CEOs are making as much as 819 times as much as the on-the-ground workers at their company.

And so for Wise, "it's a clear-cut case" that "people should stand up and fight, even if a lot of people fear big businesses and making the bosses angry," he said. "But you just never run into anyone in this industry who says they're doing just fine."




The map was created by Mariya Pylayev and Carla Astudillo, a freelance data visualization journalist. AOL Jobs will continue to update the map above as more strikes happen.

*Events marked with the #RaiseTheWage hashtag were part of the July 24 National Day of Action, a coalition that staged rallies and walkouts in over 20 cities nationwide. The actions were loosely focused on all low-wage earners, including those in the fast food and retail sectors. Because the map tracks fast food-related activity, AOL Jobs chose to only include actions that explicitly involved that industry.

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Filed under: Employment News
Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

Associate Editor

Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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Amari

This is sad. Fast food sucks! Retail is fvcked! With all of the money retailers make, your wages are sh!tty. Then during the holidays they have people working crazy hours when they should be asleep! Retailers are essentially ruining peoples health and screwing up their internal clocks just to one up each other, greedy fvcks! Who cares, screw the holidays! When I worked retail, we worked normal hours, the only things that changed was the music in the stores and more customers were asking for boxes for the gifts they'd just purchased. Who wants to be at work in a retail store at 4 in the morning or getting off at 2 in the morning. We're not talking about Doctors and Nurses who have to work these hours because they're saving lives. How is retail work saving anyone's life? Retail is ruining it! Why does anyone have to work on a Sunday if it's retail? The retailers pushed the envelope, if all retail employees everywhere just had said what?! when retailers wanted them to work crazy holiday hours, and said I don't think so, even if they got fired, then the next employees did the same thing, the retailers wouldn't be able to get away with this mess. I say if you don't want to work these dumb hours find a way to burn the stores down when there's NO ONE in them, then these a--holes will stop giving you crazy holiday hours once they rebuild! Just make sure it can't be traced back to you if you decided to do it. (Just a thought, I'm not telling you to do this) Do what you want to do. Bah Humbug to everyone!!!!!

November 14 2013 at 3:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bikebomber

Fast food, gas stations, drugstore counter help, check-out clerks, and hundreeds more are, and have almost always been, known as "Entry Level" positions. If you don't use them as a "spring-board" to improve your education and skill set then you are only going to live a paupers life. You get out of the system what you put into it. Even in todays LOUSY JOBs climate there are tens of thousands who are making it and improving their lives every year. My kids are out there, getting it done. Working hard and constantly evaluating ways to improve their lifestyles and their chances for improvement. And they're succeeding!

Conversly, there are many who think education is a waste of time, even when it could lead to a promotion and pay increase. Despite everything you HEAR there are very few people who can't learn......" won't " is a different story. It takes EFFORT, perseverance, tenacity, and planning. No, you don't have to spend thousands up front to attend school, take a longer view..... talk to your supervisor about what would make you elligible for promotion.

Once Upon A Time, in America, we had MANUFACTURING jobs that paid a living wage, but TAXes have driven those jobs OUT of America, EPA and all manner of "Protect the ....." groups have helped accelerate the exodus. Never bothering to consider what the unemployed will do once their jobs have been destroyed. Many of them are only now starting to see the damage they have done to their own towns where the factories are closed, as well as stores, restaurants, and other businesses that no longer earn enough to stay open. They started the dominoes falling without ever seeing the consequences, until now. People should THINK much further ahead than just accomplishing their immediate goals..... What are the possible long-term impacts? ObamaScare is a perfect example. VOTE! It's the QUIET revolution!

November 14 2013 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nohmadd13a

Okay I know this is not what people want to here. But a few years ago a phoenix university business professor made researching hikes in minimum wage and the effects on all. It was not pretty. For this we left out the Corporate ends, and just looked at Franchise owner and local small business owners and their areas. The bottom line was that when the Minimum wage increased it had detrimental effects on the businesses, owners, and employees. While Corporations continued to make their profit, the local owners, and employees lost ground.Franchise payments are set and all supplies are bought from franchising corporation. The local small business owner also has fixed costs to deal with, and suppliers demand payment no matter what. The Franchise owner, and the local small business owner, in order to pay his bills and feed his or her family, has to figure how to absorb each new increase to their costs, with the only ways left open are either cut employees, cut business hours, and or raise prices. well cutting people means less working people to spend money at local businesses. Cutting hours causes the loss of customers, and there by more lost money. Raising prices to cover increased wage costs, Causes less people willing to buy and that also means less income overall as less business there is less need for employees. While those who see their hourly pay go up, also see costs go up, taking any gain away from them.
Another thing all these activists and most media do not talk about is that since this latest Administration has been in control, taxes are constantly going up, another added expense employees never see. Add it together and it is a wonder any small businesses are still open in this country.
Another fact that no one wants to mention, is that while this Administration comes out talking about supporting the little guy, supporting OWS and other Occupy movements, while being in bed with the banks and their favorite corporations. GE still pays no taxes on its profits, as do many others, all with a nod from those in power.
Now before everyone gets the knickers in a twist, I support people who work should be able to make a living wage, and all that goes with it. But the fast food model was never designed to do that, and if every one working in fast food were to go from $7.25 an hour to $15.00 per hour, it would cause the cost of the food and products to also double. so that 7 dollar meal now would cost $14.00 with fries and a drink.with out taxes, so figure even more.
Who out there will pay $14.00 for a burger king or other restaurants meals? I know I wouldn't, could not afford it. Many would not consider such prices, so there would be more closures, and more unemployed, and more lost jobs and business owners who would join those who loss all they worked for.
Raising the wages sounds like a winner, but in almost all cases it costs more.

November 14 2013 at 12:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
avl14

Dennis E. Hammer
I like when someone just puts it out there plan as day......

November 14 2013 at 11:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
avl14

"MINIMUM WAGE" JOBS WERE NEVER INTENDED BE A LIFESTYLE, the point is much like welfare, there to help you get buy tell one can better themself aka school, seeking other better jobs, maturity etc..and move on, then the next generation steps in to take the minimum wage job.

November 14 2013 at 11:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to avl14's comment
nohmadd13a

Sad part is better jobs have been going away, and the present administration keeps raising taxes, agencies like the NLRB, EPA and IRS keep making more rules to punish businesses, and the (Non) Affordable Care act is adding more expenses to everyone who works, and the businesses. so people find themselves kinda stuck, and instead of looking at the real reasons, they are being told it is the evil rich business owner, so instaed of looking to better themselves, they believe when they are told they are victims, and that there is no other way to get ahead than making demands for more.

November 14 2013 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
avl14

just can not get, how someone ask for the job, knows full well it is a low paying job and what it pays, takes the job, works the job, then wants a bunch more money than what was agreed on when they took the job. I thought that only worked for contractors with govt. contracts.......

November 14 2013 at 11:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
MIKEGSXR1100

DENNIS E HAMMER, HIT IT RIGHT ON THE HEAD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

November 14 2013 at 10:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
charliemoney3

Why do people in America think backwards ? It's not Burger King , Taco Bell and other fast-food Chains...it comes from the TOP ! But the-crack-of the whip(s) is at the bottom of the "food-Chain". Which creates a 'Spirit of Division and the Blame Game' ... In this case they are useing the Mexicans. All these poor workers are being used which they have no clue what the 'Real Agenda Is'. So be it ... maybe we'll all learn how this type of propaganda works.

November 14 2013 at 9:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ShipkahYah Yisra'Yah

I BELIEVE THAT MINIMUM WAGE SHOULD BE TWICE THE FOOD COST AND COST OF LIVING AND THAT IT SHOULD CORRESPOND TO THE STATE THAT YOU RESIDE IN $ 7.25 MAY WORK FOR SOMEONE WHO LIVE IN THE SOUTH BUT $7.25 DOES NOT WORK FOR THOSE WHO RESIDE IN THE NORTH/NE/NW...

November 14 2013 at 8:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nomad1

what jobs can you do from home without using your phone???

November 13 2013 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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