July 26, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – Burger King, McDonald’s, KFC and the rest of the $200 billion fast food industry in NYC will soon have an unwelcome addition to their menus – the largest fast food workers strike the city has seen thus far. (Watch Video)
Fast food workers fed up with unlivable wages have staged one-day walkouts twice before – and inspired others across the nation in the process. But this latest strike is shaping up to be the biggest so far, with more workers, as well as elected officials, joining the fight.
“You are building a progressive political movement that is going to finally create a level playing field for all people when we seek employment,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer told a gathering of supporters at Grand Army Plaza this week. “I think people have had enough. It’s the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”
Employees – many with families to raise – are finding it increasingly impossible to earn a living in NYC on $7.25 an hour, and are seeking to bump up the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
According to Fast Food Forward, the workers-based coalition helping to coordinate the upcoming strike, the average NYC fast food employee working at places like Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, etc., earns just $11,000 annually, or just 25 percent of the actual income they need to make it here today.
Some have no other option but to move into homeless shelters.
"They’re not going to give us what we want, and we’re going to stay in poverty,” said Naquasia LeGrand, a worker at KFC. “We’re going to keep on suffering. I know you’re tired of suffering. I don’t want to see the next generation suffering and suffering. I don’t want my kids suffering. I want to make sure they have a better future than I did. So, if I want that to happen, I need you guys to stand with me just as long as I’m standing with you guys to fight for this 15 and union, a better living wage in New York City, because it’s not right. So we’ve got to do something about it."
State Senator Daniel Squadron encouraged struggling fast food workers reticent about joining the upcoming strike to stand up for their rights.
“If anyone tells you, you shouldn’t be organizing, if anyone tells you you’re out there on your own and that you risk losing your livelihood for doing this, I have one message for them: That’s not legal, it’s not right, and it will not stand,” the state senator said.
Squadron, who, along with several other elected officials, volunteered to try and live on minimum wage for a week, pledged his continuing support for the fast food workers “$15 and a Union” campaign.
“Together we’re going to organize, we’re going to raise the profile and we’re going to make sure that the hard work that all of you do means that you can do what you want, which means support your families, live in your homes and be part of this great city,” he said.
McDonald’s worker Kareem Starks said that he is enthusiastic about the upcoming fast food workers strike.
“I’ve never been on strike, but I’m excited,” Starks said. “I’m not scared. My energy is like trying to take over everything where I can get other people to join me. There are still other people who are scared about it because they never went on strike before. But I think it’s going to be great.”
Indeed, according to Starks, it’s fast food managers who are growing increasingly leery about the upcoming strike’s impact.
“It’s only right that they’re scared, but we deserve better,” Starks said.