Thursday, November 29, 2012

Why New York City’s Fast Food Workers Are Right To Strike For Higher Wages

Fast food workers in New York City are launching a strike today, ahead of the largest unionization drive to ever hit the industry. The walkouts began at 6:30 this morning at a McDonald’s, as workers “protest what they said were low wages and retaliation against several workers who have backed the unionization campaign.”

Workers in the fast food industry have every reason to be upset. As the National Employment Law Project detailed in a report earlier this year, some of the largest fast food chains — including McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell — are some of the largest employers of low-wage workers, but are making huge profits as the nation emerges from the Great Recession:

The three largest low‐wage employers in the United States – Wal‐Mart, Yum! Brands (the operator of fast food chains Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC), and McDonald’s – offer a revealing look at the resiliency of low‐wage employers in the post‐recession economy. 
Each of these corporations was profitable during all of the last three fiscal years, and each of them now earns profits that are substantially higher than their pre‐recession levels.


One in four workers is expected to be in low-wage industries over the next decade, and a majority of the jobs added since the recession have been low-wage jobs. Also, as Sarah Jaffe noted in the Atlantic, “these jobs are not being done by teenagers.” “Across the country, the median age of fast-food workers is over 28, and women — who make up two-thirds of the industry — are over 32,” she wrote. If these workers are going to make a living, a strike and unionizing may be the only way to make it happen.

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