Fast food workers took industrial action this week in New York City to fight for higher pay and the right to join and form unions.
Workers supported by New York Communities For Change protested outside of McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Dominos and restaurants who are part of the Yum! Brand chain (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC) on Thursday.
New York Communities For Change had previously helped unionise car wash and supermarket workers in New York. Fast food workers are demanding a pay rise to $15 per hour.
Strikes took place at various restaurants around the city all day, culminating with a 4pm rally at the McDonald’s in Time Square. Organisers said the first demonstration, at a McDonald’s near Grand Central Station at 6am included 14 of the 17 employees scheduled to work that shift.
McDonald’s restaurants are primarily owned and operated by franchisees, and so they claim not to be involved in labour disputes. For example one of NYC’s largest restaurant-management companies, Riese Organisation, owns about 75 restaurants including KFC, Taco Bell and other fast-food chains.
Pamela Waldrom, a 26-year-old mother of two young children, works at Riese’s KFC restaurant in NYCs Penn Station, said she said she has been working there for eight years, and that her $7.75-an-hour pay is barely enough to justify the hour-and-a-half commute from Brooklyn’s Flatbush area. “I am going to school and supporting my kids. I can’t cover half of my expenses with this pay,” she said. “It just feels good to be out here and know that there are other people in the same position as me, and we can fight for change together.”
Jonathan Westin, organising director for New York Communities For Change, said the success working with grocery store and car wash employees encouraged the group to take on the fast-food giants. “We found that the biggest industry of low-wage work in the city is fast food,” he said. “The fast-food industry has been seen for so long as teenagers working after-school jobs, but that isn’t the case anymore, especially after the recession.”
The National Restaurant Association sided with the fast food giants, saying: “The New York City restaurant industry is to be commended for providing jobs through a sluggish economy.” And laughingly Scott DeFife, executive vice president of Policy & Government
Affairs for the National Restaurant Association, “The industry, including quick service restaurants, is one of the best paths
to achieving the American dream and has provided opportunities for millions of
You can support the NYC fast food workers by signing their petition here. G’wan, you know you want to!