September 5, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Times Square, NY—Fast food workers took to the streets here on Thursday to demand multi-billion fast food companies start paying them higher wages.
Jarrell Ware has been working for McDonalds for over a year. He said he and his colleagues went out strike because they can’t survive on $7.25.
“Basically, it’s time for a change. We got these billion dollar fast food companies; they don’t want to give us anything. We can’t survive on our own; we have to depend on government assistance. We’re out here today to get a little dignity and try to get $15 and a union,” said Ware.
The fast workers marched from the N subway entrance at Times Square to a McDonald’s restaurant on 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. Numerous union supporters and leaders joined them.
Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, the property services union, said it was invigorating to march with the fast food workers.
“This is what labor has to offer to the country at this moment is to fight for workers to get a fair wage and fast food, airport and car wash workers, all low-wage workers, are showing the country that the path to prosperity begins with fairness in the workplace—$15 and a union,” said Figueroa.
While cities like San Jose, San Francisco and Seattle are on the verge of raising wages for low-wage workers, Figueroa said it’s time for New York City to catch up.
“We are working very closely with the fast food movement, low-wage workers, community groups [and] we are making a priority to raise the wage in New York City. Working people are hurting and we need government to act, and to act now,” Figueroa said.
As the marchers got to the McDonald’s on 42nd Street, several fast food workers sat down in the middle of the street to make their case for $15 an hour. They were soon arrested. One fast food worker who was being led by the police into a paddy wagon said, when asked if it was worth getting arrested, “Yes it was.”
Several elected officials showed support for the striking fast food workers. Gale Brewer, the Manhattan Borough President, said she’s been a long-time supporter of workers getting higher wages
“As you know, I’m the original author of the paid-sick day legislation, so I know what’s it like figuring out a way for workers to get benefits that they can live on,” Brewer said.
When asked to respond to private industry’s argument that raising wages leads to layoffs, the borough president said it was the same argument with paid-sick days.
“We passed it. And it’s now the law, and I don’t think there’s been much of an impact. So you have to do things in phases and you have to work with businesses. But people have to be able to have a salary that they can live on,” said Brewer.