May 16, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – The city's $200 billion fast food industry was forced to choke down the latest fast food workers strike on Thursday, May 15, as workers here fed up with poverty wages, dehumanization and exploitation on the job, joined a worldwide protest against Ronald McDonald, et al, in a growing campaign that promises not to quit until workers win the day.
"We will no longer work as the slaves of the fast food empire," Reverend Willie Dwayne Francois told hundreds of protesters chanting outside the Domino's Pizza outlet at 227 West 40th Street on Thursday. "There is nothing normal about poverty."
The Harlem's pastor's provocative message echoes others who insist that New York City should have the right to raise the current $8 an hour minimum wage to a more livable $15 an hour.
Reverend Cheri Kroon, minister at the Flatbush Reformed Church in Brooklyn, said the church will not stand for employees being "treated as if they are disposable."
"Pizza boxes are disposable," Reverend Kroon said. "People are not."
Thursday's action – which coincided with similar demonstrations launched in 230 cities around the globe where the fast food industry continues to reap billions of dollars while most of its employees languish – followed passage of a New York City Council resolution backing legislation that would allow municipalities to set their own minimum wage.
With women constituting 66 percent of the fast food workforce in New York, Assemblywoman Maritza Davila [D-53rd District], said that the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, is also aimed at addressing gender inequality.
"In order for us to bridge that gap on inequality, we must raise our salaries to $15 an hour," Assemblywoman Davila said. "Let's make it fair for all New Yorkers."
Former City Councilman Oliver Koppel blamed State Senator Jeff Klein as being "most responsible" for keeping the state's minimum wage in the toilet. Koppel – a leading sponsor of the living wage bill during his time in the New York City Council representing the 11th District – is presently challenging Klein for his 34th District senatorial seat.
One Domino's worker fearful about reprisal from his employer, nevertheless spoke out at Thursday's rally, saying that he is being held to less than 40 hours of work each week, and can longer support a family on his limited salary.
"We can no longer dismiss people," New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in defense of workers. "This city is about aspirations. It's about making sure that everybody has a fair shot at life. We in government are going to make it very clear that we are going to do everything in our power to join this movement, work with people, and make sure that everyone can provide for their families."
The city's chief fiscal officer added that "best practices" for corporations should also mean paying fair wages and benefits to workers – and not "giving all the money to the CEOs."
"This is something we have to change," the comptroller said.
As New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently pointed out, the fast food industry's top executives currently rake in 1,200 times more than the average employee.
Said Reverend Francois, "Fast food restaurants should not treat their workers like less than the meat that they serve."