NYC's Fast-Food Workers Strike, Demand 'Living Wages' | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

NYC's Fast-Food Workers Strike, Demand 'Living Wages'

Play associated audio

Fast-food restaurants were a little bit slower Thursday in New York City. Hundreds of workers staged a one-day strike in what organizers are calling the biggest job action ever in that industry. It's a growing segment of the economy, but workers complain that fast-food jobs don't pay enough to survive in New York City.

The current minimum wage in New York is $7.25. That's what many fast-food workers in the city earn, including Joseph Barrera, who works at a KFC restaurant in Brooklyn. He thinks fast-food companies can afford to treat their employees better.

"We help them earn those billions of dollars that give them the lifestyle that the CEOs get. They earn million-dollar paychecks, so why can't they give us something that we can live on?" says Barrera.

This is the second time workers at fast-food restaurants around the city have walked off the job in the past six months.

Jonathan Westin is a campaign manager for Fast Food Forward, the group that organized both strikes. It's calling for fast food restaurants to pay a so-called living wage of $15 an hour.

"It's not teenagers working after-school jobs," says Westin. "It's adults with families that are trying to take care of their kids and can't put food on the table. They can work here for 10, 15 years and still be making the same wages as when they started."

Shenise Hendricks and Lourdy Eferance have both worked at a Wendy's restaurant in Brooklyn for four years. Hendricks is paid $8 an hour and Eferance is paid $7.50 an hour. They say that it's a struggle to live in New York on this salary.

And Wendy's isn't an easy place to work, says Hendricks. For example, if she tries to call in sick to work, she gets written up.

Wendy's declined to comment for this story. In fact, none of the fast-food companies we called wanted to be interviewed.

In a statement, a spokesman for Burger King says the company has provided "an entry point into the work-force for millions of Americans," including many who went on to be franchise owners.

The National Restaurant Association says the industry provides more than 13 million jobs — jobs that could be jeopardized if the minimum wage goes up. In a statement, the association says the industry is "one of the best paths to achieving the American Dream."

But that dream remains out of reach for people like Gregory Renoso, who makes minimum wage as a deliveryman for Domino's Pizza. "People like me, we don't have education to get a better job," says Renoso. "We have to do the fast-food industry. But the fast-food industry [doesn't] pay."

According to strike organizer Westin, the fast-food industry is one of the few sectors of the economy that are growing quickly. Tens of thousands of fast-food workers are employed in New York alone.

"Folks can't just move on to other jobs," says Westin. "If they could, they probably would have, because the conditions are so bad. The problem is, these are the jobs that are out there. There's really nowhere to go." And while corporations are recovering, the working class is not, he adds.

New York's minimum wage is already set to rise to $9 an hour over the next three years. But according to Westin, that change will be too little, too late for many of those who are striking today.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Puerto Rico Is Sowing A New Generation Of Small Farmers

Decades of industrialization have left the island reliant on imported food. But change is coming — from government subsidies for small farmers, to classes that teach school kids how to grow food.
NPR

Puerto Rico Is Sowing A New Generation Of Small Farmers

Decades of industrialization have left the island reliant on imported food. But change is coming — from government subsidies for small farmers, to classes that teach school kids how to grow food.
WAMU 88.5

Abortion Is Back In The Spotlight In Virginia

The state's current attorney general is overturning a ruling from the previous attorney general that would have shut down most of the abortion clinics in the state, and the issue isn't just about regulations and politics. It's also about money.
NPR

Smartphones Can Be Smart Enough To Find A Parasitic Worm

If someone is infected by the Loa loa worm, taking a drug to treat river blindness could be risky. Now there's a fast way to identify the worm — by turning a smartphone into a microscope.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.