Thursday, hundreds of fast food restaurant workers are striking in high-traffic commercial centers in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The strikes, which began at 6 am this morning and will continue throughout the day, will hit some of the world’s biggest fast food chains, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Dominos, Burger King, Kentucky Friend Chicken and Taco Bell, and carry an industry-shaking demand: the right to unionize and wage increases to $15 an hour.
Fast food workers in New York City earn just below $9.00 an hour on average, and rarely receive health care, paid sick days or other benefits that make it possible to live in an expensive urban center like New York City. These workers are also often given only 20 or 30 hours of work a week, which keeps their annual income far below the poverty line. According to organizers on the campaign, many workers have to resort to collecting public assistance, eating at their restaurants to save money and sometimes even living in homeless shelters--necessities that not only make their lives incredibly challenging but also put intense strain on the city’s social safety net.
The top companies, meanwhile, have been netting considerable profits; according to The Atlantic’s Sarah Jaffe , Taco Bell and KFC’s profits have risen nearly 50 percent over the last four years, and McDonald’s have jumped a staggering 130 percent. Most troubling, these types of low-wage, low-protection jobs are the majority of positions being created as the economy slowly recovers from the 2008 recession. According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, nearly 60 percent of the jobs added since the recession have been these types of low-wage jobs, particularly in retail sales and food preparation.
The strikes began at six am Thursday morning when 14 of 17 workers walked off the job at a McDonald’s near Grand Central. (The company was forced to call in replacement workers to keep the store open.)
By seven and eight o’clock, workers refused to assume their shifts at fast food restaurants across Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Major strikes are scheduled for noon at Penn Station and Downtown Brooklyn, and a 5 pm rally at Times Square outside the McDonald’s is expected to attract hundreds of workers.