Fast food workers across the nation strike for better wages

Women protesting and holding up signs "Strike for higher pay"

Protesting outside a McDonald’s (Credit: AP)

This week, fast food workers around the country have been holding strikes and demanding a living wage:

What began in Manhattan eight months ago first spread to Chicago and Washington and this week has hit St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit and Flint, Mich. On Wednesday alone, workers picketed McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Popeye’s and Long John Silver’s restaurants in those cities with an ambitious agenda: pay of $15 an hour, twice what many now earn.

And while the stereotype of a fast food worker tends to be a teenager, two thirds of these workers are in fact adult women, and they’re disproportionately women of color – many of whom have children and other family to support:

One Taco Bell worker, Sharise Stitt, 27, joined the strike, saying the $8.09 she earns after five years there was insufficient to support her family.

She was evicted from her Detroit apartment and moved her family to her sister’s house in Taylor, Mich. That means a 45-minute commute each way and a gas bill of $50 every four days. After taxes, she has about $900 a month to feed and clothe her three children. They receive food stamps.

“Sometimes my phone will go out because that isn’t a priority,” she said. “Giving my kids a roof over their heads is.”

She would love a $15 minimum wage. “I wouldn’t have to worry about school supplies or things like that,” she added.

This is the largest fast food worker mobilization in history, with strikes happening across seven U.S. cities, and is a huge deal, particularly for low-income communities. Fast food chains are big employers in low-income areas, and are generally not unionized, meaning that employees lack many basic protections and benefits. And while the average yearly salary for a fast food worker in New York City is $11,000 a year, the average daily salary for a fast-food CEO is over twice that, and about $200 billion is grossed by the fast food industry annually.

If you see folks striking at your local fast food chains please don’t cross the picket lines, and let them know they’ve got your support!

New York, NY

Verónica Bayetti Flores has spent the last years of her life living and breathing reproductive justice. She has led national policy and movement building work on the intersections of immigrants' rights, health care access, young parenthood, and LGBTQ liberation, and has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, and demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color. In 2008 Verónica obtained her Master’s degree in the Sexuality and Health program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves cooking, making art, listening to music, and thinking about the ways art forms traditionally seen as feminine are valued and devalued. In addition to writing for Feministing, she is currently spending most of her time doing policy work to reduce the harms of LGBTQ youth of color's interactions with the police and making sure abortion care is accessible to all regardless of their income.

Verónica is a queer immigrant writer, activist, and rabble-rouser.

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  • a male

    The comments to the linked article are for the most part, sympathetic to the situation of the working poor. Critics are in my view, fairly mild in their comments.

    I am sympathetic to the plight of the working poor, because I consider myself one of them, despite a degree and working as a nurse. The only reason my family is not homeless is because we live in a home owned by my mother (paying a mortgage until age 93).

    In my idealized view, I believe in a living wage, regardless of one’s background or duties on the job. People should be able to afford housing (rental at least) in the community where they work, and food on one full time job. In my community it is common for one couple to have four or more jobs between them to live, even full time jobs. I am aware that even $15 per hour for a single mother is below the poverty line in Manhattan, but aiming to double one’s pay or set $15 per hour as minimum wage is indeed an “ambitious” goal. I don’t make much more than that, and there are no “unskilled” labor positions which pay more than about $10 for seasonal hands harvesting seed corn in my community. A certain big box store used to advertise jobs for $12.50 per hour, for 26 hours a week. That was the best wage there was.

    My first degree was in business. We studied economics, accounting and finance. I admit I found the following report surprising:

    An increase of about 17% is quite reasonable, considering value menus used to be $2.99, less than half what they are now where I live. I would accept this mild inflation if it enabled families to live better.