Tabitha Verges, a minimum-wage worker at a Burger King in Harlem, was caught unawares when 200 workers at other fast-food restaurants in New York City walked out last November to demand higher wages.
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Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Gregory Reynoso, a driver for Domino’s. “It’s impossible to support a family on $7.25 an hour,” he said. “We’re just surviving.”
With Day of Protests, Fast-Food Workers Seek More Pay (November 30, 2012)
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But Ms. Verges, 29, says she definitely plans to walk out on Thursday when the movement to raise wages for the city’s fast-food workers holds its second big job action. The movement’s leaders are predicting that twice as many workers — more than 400 — will engage in a one-day strike at 60 to 70 McDonald’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants.
Ms. Verges said that her $7.25 hourly wage had not increased since she began working for Burger King four years ago, and that though she had asked for a raise, “They always give me the same excuse — that they’re not making enough money.”
Thursday’s strike, sponsored by a labor-community coalition that calls itself Fast Food Forward, seeks to press the city’s fast-food restaurants to pay their employees $15 an hour. Many workers say they can barely get by on the $7.25, $8 or $9 an hour that many receive; $9 an hour translates to around $18,000 a year for a full-time worker. The current minimum wage in New York State is $7.25, though lawmakers agreed last month to raise it to $9 by 2016.
“What happened in November was a very big thing in terms of seeing whether workers were ready and able to go out and strike and take risks in a way that has not happened in the fast-food industry before,” said Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, one of the main sponsors of the job action. “A lot of people have been emboldened by what happened last time.”
Workplace experts said the November walkout was the biggest job action in the history of America’s fast-food industry. The strike’s organizers scheduled the walkout on Thursday to coincide with the day that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 45 years ago in Memphis, where he was supporting a strike by low-paid sanitation workers.
“We believe that it’s a continuation of a civil rights fight against low wages and for Martin Luther King’s movement to win dignity and living-wage jobs,” Mr. Westin said.
He also said that one big change since the November strike was that more than 100 members of the clergy had joined the push to raise wages for the city’s 50,000 fast-food workers.
The Rev. Cheri Kroon, associate minister of the Flatbush Reform Church in Brooklyn, said Thursday’s job action continued Dr. King’s fight against economic injustice.
“My community in Flatbush is filled with fast-food workers who have been suffering due to low wages, no sick days and unsafe working conditions,” she said.
The main event on Thursday will be a march and rally on 125th Street in Harlem.
Sponsors of Fast Food Forward include UnitedNY.org, the Black Institute and the Service Employees International Union.
The strikers’ main message is that they want to be paid $15 an hour, although some workers are also saying that they are eager to unionize.
Gregory Reynoso, a driver for a Domino’s in Brooklyn, complains that he is making $7.25 an hour after a year and a half on the job. “It’s impossible to support a family on $7.25 an hour,” said Mr. Reynoso, 26, who lives with his 3-year-old daughter and his wife, a part-time employee at Macy’s. “We’re just surviving.”
Ms. Verges welcomed the recent agreement to raise New York’s minimum wage to $9 an hour, but said it fell far short of what workers needed. She insists that she deserves $15 an hour, saying it is hugely difficult to live in New York on her weekly paycheck of $122. That is what she nets from working 25 hours a week at $7.25 an hour.
“I’m behind on paying my cable and Con Ed bills,” said Ms. Verges, whose Burger King is at 141st Street and Broadway. “I don’t think $15 an hour is asking too much. I do it all. I do three or four jobs. I take orders, I make the orders. I work the cash register. I say, ‘Have a good day.’ I do the inventory. I take out the trash. I get down and scrub the floor. I don’t think $7.25 is nearly enough.”
Burger King officials said that their restaurants provided entry-level jobs for millions of Americans and trained and invested in workers. Miguel Piedra, a Burger King spokesman, said the company’s restaurants “offer compensation and benefits that are consistent with the quick-service restaurant industry.”
Seriously these people want $15 an hour to flip burgers and ask do you want fries with that? Some private school teachers in NYC don't make that. That would be a salary of $31,000 a year. EMTS for FDNY ems don't make that much an hour for their first year.