Thursday, April 4, 2013

Fast Food Workers Go On Strike In New York City On Anniversary Of Martin Luther King Assassination

Hundreds of fast food workers in New York City began walking off the job this morning to demand a living wage and the ability to form a union without intimidation or retaliation from their employers, the second such action workers have taken since November. Fast food workers went on strike on November 29 to demand a $15 wage and the right to form a union, and organizers expect this strike to be even larger. By 7:30 a.m., workers had already picketed multiple restaurants, including a Burger King location that was still closed despite its 6 a.m. opening time, according to organizers.

The strike was organized by Fast Food Forward, the group that also led the November walkout, and inspired by Memphis sanitation workers who went on strike with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. The strike is occurring on the 45th anniversary of King’s assassination during those organizing efforts.

In a letter to workers and supporters, the group said many of its members are living on food stamps or in homeless shelters even as profits continue to rise for low-wage fast food employers. “We’re on strike today because we can’t survive on $7.25. Higher wages will help us raise our families with dignity but will also help lift our entire economy. More money in the hands of workers means more money spent in local shops and a boost for our community,” the letter says.

Profits at low-wage food employers have indeed grown rapidly since the recession, as this chart from the National Employment Law Project shows:

Low-wage industries like fast food are the fastest growing sectors in America, outpacing the economy since the Great Recession. While such jobs accounted for just 21 percent of losses during the recession, they have made up 58 percent of jobs added during the recovery, and one in four American workers is expected to hold a low-wage job a decade from now. At the same time, the minimum wage is falling farther behind the cost of living — had it risen with inflation and productivity gains since the 1960s, the minimum wage would be north of $20 an hour.

Organizers of the strike expect between 400 and 500 workers to walk of the job today as they continue to fight for a union and a living wage. The strike will be concentrated in Harlem, where organizers will lead a march this afternoon.

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