Yesterday, fast food workers across the country walked out to strike for higher wages. This is part of an ongoing and building campaign by low wage workers at chains like McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy's who are unable to live on minimum wage. The workers have noticed the high profits of these corporations, the high pay to CEO's and executives while they struggle with pay too low to live on. The workers have become angrier and are getting organized under the Fast Food Forward campaign. More information on this campaign is available at: www.fastfoodforward.org
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This morning marks the start of what will likely be the largest fast food worker mobilization in U.S. history, with a New York City walkout today kicking off strikes in seven cities over four days. These work stoppages by non-union workers are the latest escalation in an embattled labor movement’s unprecedented challenge to the overwhelmingly non-union industry, whose ranks are growing and whose conditions are spreading elsewhere in the U.S. economy. This week’s wave of strikes got an early start Friday night, when workers walked out at a Brooklyn Domino’s to protest the firing of an activist co-worker, Gregory Reynoso, following their April strike. Striker Jose Cruz told Salon that about 90% of the workers on the busy evening shift joined the work stoppage, forcing cancellations of deliveries. (Workers at two other Domino’s locations, a Papa John’s, and a McDonald’s also took part in Friday’s prequel strike.)
FastFoodForward, has a Tumblr page FastFoodCrimeWave, adds a litany of other work-related complaints to those voiced by George and Shaheen. Some examples: “I don’t get overtime”; “I don’t get paid for time spent counting the register”; “I have to pay if the register is short”; “I have to buy my own uniform.” And these are not isolated grumblings. According to an investigation promoted by FFF and released in April 2013, 84 percent of New York City fast food workers in the five boroughs have experienced wage theft, an intentional violation of state labor laws so egregious that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is presently looking into the matter. His corroboration could have major implications for more than 50,000 New York City fast food workers—and produce a ripple effect for the approximately three million laborers who toil in the industry throughout the 50 states.
After years of downplaying strikes, the union that’s funding fast food organizing is now embracing the tactic. The Service Employees have underwritten short strikes by fast food workers in seven cities in the last two months—including the largest, in Detroit, where 400 workers walked out of dozens of restaurants and completely shut down three. Fast food is an unlikely union target, due to high workforce turnover and layered franchise ownership. And the path forward is uncertain, say organizers. The only thing that seems sure is that typical union elections won’t work. Nonetheless, the strikes have caught the imagination of fast food workers around the country, who toil in one of the economy’s few growth sectors. Unpredictable hours, tyrannical bosses, and rampant wage theft are eroding their already low pay.
Here’s how Papa John’s gets away with taking Roffle’s pay. She says she’s regularly expected to start her shift before she clocks in, or stay late to clean after she’s already clocked out. She talked me through a recent week, recalling the hours she started and stopped and then which hours she actually worked. All together, she says in an average week she works two to four hours without pay. And so Roffle, who makes $7.35 an hour, loses out on nearly $90 a month. In a year, that’s more than $1,000, which she says would’ve been more than enough to get her car fixed. “The thing is, you know that you should be paid,” Roffle said, “but to show that you want to keep your job, that you are a good worker, that you are a team player, you do it.”