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2014-05-15

"We Have to Stop This Inequality": Fast-Food Worker Strike Spreads to Dozens of Cities

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In a historic move, thousands of fast-food workers are staging a one-day-strike today in least 150 cities including St. Louis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Oakland, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Organizers with Fast Food Forward say workers from 80 cities in more than 30 countries around the world will also join the day of action. The workers are demanding the right to organize and are calling for a doubling of their wages from the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour. We hear voices from a protest in New York City outside a McDonald’s across the street from the Empire State Building.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Thousands of fast-food workers have begun a one-day strike today in at least 150 cities. Organizers with Fast Food Forward say workers from 80 cities in more than 30 countries around the world will also join the day of action. In the United States, workers in St. Louis and Kansas City, Milwaukee, Oakland, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City will demand the right to organize and call for a doubling of their wages from the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.

This was the scene in New York early this morning outside a McDonald’s across the street from the Empire State Building.

PROTESTERS: We are the workers! We are the workers!

KENDALL FELLS: Kendall Fells. I’m the organizing director of Fast Food Forward. We’re here in New York City in Midtown. We just began around the corner. We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of New York fast-food workers on strike today. We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of community out here supporting them, electeds and others. We just marched down 33rd. We hung a right on Fifth Avenue to this McDonald’s right here, where we ran into some conflict with the police because the GM of the store apparently was here getting the police, because he didn’t want, you know, this 500-, 600-person crowd to take over his store like we’re known to do here in New York City. So, when we tried to get in McDonald’s, you know, like I said, the crowd stopped—they stopped the crowd from going in. But luckily, we had a crowd that had gone in earlier, so we got a banner that we threw up, you know, and hung down inside of the McDonald’s, just to move our message around: people sticking together, $15 and a union for all fast-food workers in the country.

PATRICIA MALCOLM: [echoed by the people’s mic] Good morning! My name is Patricia Malcolm. I am here this morning with members of the clergy. We are in solidarity with fast-food workers. Over 130 cities are on strike today. Fifteen dollars and a union. We have to stop this inequality. And so, today, we are sending a strong message to Albany: Things have got to change.

ORGANIZER: I said the New York City public advocate, Tish James.

LETITIA JAMES: [echoed by the people’s mic] Fast food is the fastest-growing job in the United States. It’s also the lowest paid. And it’s no incident that the lowest-paying jobs in New York City, like those in fast food, are predominantly held by women of color. Fast-food workers, on average, only make between $10,000 and $18,000, less than what it costs to live in New York City. But yet, the CEO of McDonald’s makes—are you ready?—$9,200 an hour.

DEJAN TORRE: My name is Dejan Torre [phon.]. I work at Wendy’s on 125th Street. Yesterday night, I walked out because I think we deserve $15 and a union. A union stays there to protect us from the injustices that happen on in the workplace. For example, sometimes they expect us to work for free. When it’s time to clock out, if there’s work still to be done, they will try to force us to clock out and still do the work. Some people let them overpower them like that, but I’m on strike today for reasons like that.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s video from this morning outside a McDonald’s here in New York across the street from the Empire State Building. Special thanks to Democracy Now!'s Hany Massoud. Workers say they're planning another protest at McDonald’s annual shareholders’ meeting a week from today.

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