US fast food workers fight for $15

Submitted by Matthew on 10 September, 2013 - 6:01

On August 29, low-wage workers in some 50 cities across the United States walked off the job at various fast-food restaurants as part of the latest action in the “Fight for 15” campaign for union recognition and a $15 an hour wage.

Here are reports from activists in [two] of the cities where Fight for 15 workers walked off the job:

More than 100 people in San Diego, California marched and rallied in front of a Wendy’s restaurant to demand a raise and union rights for fast-food workers. Six workers from Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Subway left work and spoke to the gathering of fellow workers and supporters. Jenny Andrade, who works at Subway, said:

“I’m a mom and I struggle because I want to give my daughter the best. I work full-time and go to school full-time. It’s hard, college is expensive, and sometimes, I have to work instead of going to school. When my daughter gets sick, I have to take off both to take care of her.

“I’m here to help my people. It’s amazing knowing I can make a change, not just for myself, but for everybody else. I’m trying to make a change by supporting this, and by supporting my dad, who motivated me. My dad is doing life in prison, and he is on a hunger strike.”

Diego Rios, who works at McDonald’s, was also inspired to take action by family members participating in the ongoing California prison hunger strike:

“We need to make a difference, but a lot our coworkers are too scared to stand up, they know it could cost them their job. Some members of my family are in prison on hunger strike. Seeing them take action inspired me. They could lose their lives in this fight, but I’m only risking my job.

“My grandmother worked at Burger King her whole life and never made over $3.50 an hour. I don’t want my kids making only $8 like us now, with no benefits, no vacation and no sick days. Not providing sick days is unsafe — do you really want a sick person handling food? Plus employers find loopholes to get out of giving us our breaks, or paying overtime.

“Change won’t come tomorrow, but even if we have to wait 10 years, it’s important to fight now. This will give people an opportunity for a better life.”

Several workers mentioned that while dining rooms in their restaurants are kept cool, the kitchens are not air conditioned, and are uncomfortable and unsafe with the record heat and humidity in Southern California.

The following day, activists and rank-and-file members of California Federation of Teachers, SEIU, the Teamsters, and United Auto Workers escorted the workers back to their jobs. There has been no sign of retaliation by employers, but should there be, fellow workers are ready to raise hell. […]

Courtney Gardner, from Madison, Wisconsin [where public sector unions fought a labour war with local government in 2011] says he had never participated in a labour action before he walked out of his McDonald’s job on Thursday. He’s been working fast food his whole life, and decided that “something has to change.”

Despite working there for over a year and being promised two raises, his hourly wage is still the same $7.25 as when he started. With this salary, he can barely support his five kids, and is forced to live out of his car.

In this bleak situation, he said the campaign has made him “feel that there’s a possibility of change in life.” He called the fight for $15 “a little ray of sunshine.”

This text is abridged from an article in Socialist Worker, the paper of the International Socialist Organization in the US. The full article is online here.

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