Hundreds of NYC fast food workers walked out of jobs at McDonald's, KFC, and Burger King today in what organizers say is the largest-ever strike against the basically union-free industry. The Fast Food Forward campaign is calling for an industry wage of $15 an hour in the city — that's double what most employees make — and the unionization of fast food restaurants.
The average fast food worker is 28 years old. Two thirds of the industry's workforce is comprised of women; their average age is 32, and they are mostly women of color. The majority are supporting children and families on $7.50 minimum wage, no benefits, and few hours. (Few work full-time because the industry cuts work hours at 32 hours so they don't have to give benefits. Fun stuff.)
Last November, when the Fast Food Forward campaign went public with its first strike, Sarah Jaffe interviewed one such woman for The Atlantic:
Saavedra Jantuah, who works at a Burger King on 34th St. in Manhattan, explained that the $7.30 she makes per hour after two years on the job doesn't pay her enough to support her son. "I'm doing it for him, I'm going on strike so I can bring my family together underneath one household," she said. "A union can help us get to where we can make it in New York."
A McDonald's spokesperson emailed Salon a predictable statement saying, "We value and respect all the employees who work at McDonald's restaurants" and that the majority of its stores are franchisee-run restaurants "where employees are paid competitive wages, and have access to flexible schedules and quality, affordable benefits."
Not such an inspiring response. But Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change, told The Huffington Post that the workers were encouraged by the actions of their colleagues last year and inspired by Black Friday Walmart strikers. Fast Food Forward has supported recent proposals to raise the federal minimum wage and the state minimum wage in New York to $9 and helped one million NYC workers finally get paid sick leave, so we're sure this isn't the last we'll hear from women like Jantuah.