Tag Archives: fast-food workers

Fast-food workers protest across the state on Democratic debate day in Milwaukee

Fast-food workers across Wisconsin today — Democratic debate day in Milwaukee — are demonstrating, repeating their demand for $15 an hour and union rights.

Later today, Feb. 11, they will join a protest outside the debate forum and candidates on the 2016 political field to stand with the 46 percent of workers in Wisconsin who are paid earn less than $15 an hour.

Many of the protesters are young and will be voting in their first presidential primary this year.

“I never thought my voice could make a difference,” said Kyesha Lee, a McDonald’s worker form Milwaukee who is paid $8.25 an hour and will be voting for the first time in the April presidential preference primary. “The fight for $15 has shown me that’s not true. Across the country, politicians have responded to workers out in the street marching for $15/hour and union rights, and we’re seeing workers win pay raises everywhere from L.A. to New York.”

Demonstrators gathered at about noon at the McDonald’s restaurant at 420 E. Capitol in Milwaukee.

At about 5 p.m. they planned to join a rally at Lake Park and march to the debate forum.

“I am a first-time voter and the honor and responsibility of that isn’t lost on me,” said Cornelius Powell, a home-care worker from Milwaukee who is paid $9.50 an hour. “Home care workers help hold our communities together and care for one another, and now we’re calling on politicians to do the same. Low-wage workers and young people have the most at stake in this election. I know every politician wants a 19-year-old’s vote, but if they want it they’ll have to stand for $15 and union rights!”

The debate is taking place at the Helen Bader Concert Hall in the Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Fast-food workers strike in Fight for $15

Fast-food worker Tim Roach has been doing some arithmetic and the numbers don’t add up to fairness.

Roach works at a Wendy’s in West Allis for $7.45 and gets 40 hours a week if he’s lucky.

That is not a living wage for the 21-year-old man, who travels to work from his residence on the North Side of Milwaukee to the restaurant via bus, a commute that can take four hours round-trip.

So on Sept. 4, Roach joined other fast-food workers in the Fight for $15 day of action. He was a first-time striker, walking off the job for fair wages and the right to unionize without fear of retaliation.

Fast-food workers with Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Hardee’s and more demonstrated in more than 150 U.S. cities, including Wausau, Madison and the Milwaukee area.

In some cases, workers, with support from labor leaders, clergy, community activists and elected officials, staged civil disobedience demonstrations that resulted in arrests. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, was among the two dozen protesters arrested in the Fight for $15 sit-in outside a West Milwaukee McDonald’s.

Moore, in a statement through her communications director, said, “I take great pride in supporting Milwaukee workers as they risk arrest in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow for their families.”

In Madison, police arrested at least seven people. 

Other arrests took place in Detroit, Chicago, New York City, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami.

Organizers said thousands of workers and allies participated in the actions.

“It’s time to raise the pay of fast-food workers and everyone earning a low wage in this country,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, who said he stood in solidarity with the demonstrators. “Companies should pay their workers fair wages and put more money in the hands of consumers to help strengthen our economy. These companies are super-sizing their profits while their workers are struggling to make ends meet.”

Just days before the demonstrations, the Fight for $15 got a boost from President Barack Obama, who spoke at a Labor Day celebration in Milwaukee. He again called for Congress to raise the minimum wage — various measures would increase the base wage from $7.25 an hour, which is what Roach started at about a year ago, to $10–$15.

A minimum-wage worker on the job 40 hours a week can earn about $15,000 a year, and that’s generally without benefits.

“I work hard. I exhaust myself and I don’t get paid enough to live a comfortable life,” said Roach, who handles a range of tasks at the restaurant.

He’d been attending a culinary school until he had to give that up to work as many hours as he could get. “I need 40 hours a week to survive,” he said.

At $15 an hour, Roach said he could pay his bills and maybe further his education.

The fast-food campaign has the support of major unions at the national level, such as the Service Employees International Union, and grassroots groups such as Wisconsin Jobs Now! at the regional level.

The day of action drew the attention of consumers to the situation of the fast-food worker at the counters and in the kitchens.

And the campaign drew the attention of workers to unions, and the possibilities and benefits of organizing.

“It’s a movement that I believe in,” Roach said. “It is a movement to better ourselves economically, to better our situation, but also to better our whole economy. … It’s a movement to make our whole society better.”

On the Web…

Wisconsin Jobs Now: http://wisconsinjobsnow.org

StrikeFastFood: http://strikefastfood.org

Service Employees International Union: http://www.seiu.org

On Twitter



By the numbers

In the latest Pew Research Center on jobs and the economy, 56 percent say their family’s incomes are falling behind the cost of living.

• 45 percent have experienced one or more serious hardships in the past year.

• 58 percent say jobs are difficult to find.

• 67 percent say the economy is recovering, but not so strongly.

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Around the country, fast-food workers to strike on Sept. 4

Fast-food workers in more than 150 cities — including Milwaukee, Madison and Wausau — will walk off their jobs on Sept. 4 as their movement to build a union and raise the minimum wage intensifies.

A day after President Barack Obama praised their campaign during a speech at LaborFest in Milwaukee, workers from Oakland, California, to Opelika, Alabama, said they will strike at the country’s major fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC.

Obama, addressing the Labor Day rally, said on Sept. 1, “All across the country right now there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity.”

Fast-food workers in Little Rock, Arkansas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Rochester, New York, are among those who will walk off their jobs for the first time, according to an announcement from organizers, who were still preparing a complete list of planned actions.

Fast-food workers in the St. Louis area will note strike onsite but instead will join workers on strike lines in New York City, Memphis, Nashville and Little Rock.

Fast-food workers from four continents are expected to travel to the U.S. to support strikers in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Raleigh, according to a news release from strike organizers.

Home-health care workers are expected to join in the demonstration demanding higher pay and better benefits. In several cities, both non-union and union home care workers will join striking fast-food workers in the Fight for $15, a campaign for a higher minimum wage.

Organizers also say there will be civil disobedience actions that coincide with the strike activity, including in Wisconsin, where fast-food workers are preparing for the day with coordination from Wisconsin Jobs Now, which on its website is asking people to stand with underpaid workers, demand fair wages and share support on Twitter at #strikefastfood.

The fast-food workers’ campaign started in New York City in November 2012, with 200 fast-food workers walking off their jobs demanding $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation. 

Many fast-food workers do not make much more than $7.25 per hour, or about $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week.

The National Restaurant Association, an industry trade group, said in a statement to the AP that the fast-food protests are attempts by unions “to boost their dwindling membership.”

On the Web…

Support Wisconsin workers at http://action.wisconsinjobsnow.org/page/s/workersunited?source=wp.

Fast food workers vow civil disobedience

Comparing their campaign to the civil rights movement, fast food workers from across the country voted Saturday to escalate their efforts for $15-an-hour pay and union membership by using nonviolent civil disobedience.

More than 1,300 workers gathered in a convention in center in suburban Chicago to discuss the future of a campaign that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years. Wearing T-shirts that said “Fight for $15” and “We Are Worth More,” the workers cheered loudly and said they would win if they stuck together.

“People are just fed up,” said Cindy Enriquez, 20, of Phoenix.

The $8.25 an hour she makes working for McDonald’s is not enough to go to college and become a police officer and barely enough to pay her rent, Enriquez said.

While the vote didn’t list any specific acts of civil disobedience, Enriquez said some workers suggested sit-ins and perhaps blocking businesses. She said they need to keep pressure on owners even if it means sitting in front of restaurants “to make sure they do not sell anything.”

“We’re going to keep on going,” Enriquez said.

The Service Employees International Union has been providing financial and organizational support to the fast-food protests. They began in late 2012 in New York City and have included daylong strikes and a loud but peaceful demonstration outside this year’s McDonald’s Corp. shareholder meeting, where more than 130 protesters were arrested after stepping onto company property.

Saturday’s convention in Villa Park, Illinois, included sessions on civil disobedience and leadership training. Kendall Fells, an organizing director for the campaign and a representative of SEIU, said when and what actions happen next will be up to workers in each city.

The Rev. William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP, said the movement is young but as important as when civil disobedience efforts began during the early years of the civil rights movement.

“People should not work and be willing to work and then be denied living wages and be denied health care because of greed,” Barber said.

“This movement is saying that America is less than she promises to be, morally and constitutionally, by denying living wages,” Barber said. “If you raise wages for workers, you buoy the whole economy.”

The campaign comes as President Barack Obama and many other Democrats across the country have attempted to make a campaign issue out of their call to increase the federal and state minimum wages.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, translating to about $15,000 a year for someone working 40 hours a week, though many fast-food workers get far fewer hours. Obama and others have called for increasing it to $10.10.

Fast food workers say even that’s not enough because most people working in the industry now are adults with children, rather than teenagers earning pocket money. The restaurant industry has argued that a $15 hourly wage could lead to business closings and job cuts, though the Seattle City Council recently voted to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, phased in over several years.

The National Restaurant Association said last week that increasing wages to $15 will not solve income inequality and that the campaign was an attempt by unions to boost dwindling membership. Scott DeFife, the association’s executive vice president of policy and government affairs, said protesters were “demonizing” an industry that employs workers of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels, when the focus should be on policies that increase education and job training.

But many people now are staying with fast-food restaurants for years, because they’re often the only ones available, workers said.

Latoya Caldwell, a mother of four from Kansas City, Missouri, who earns $7.50 an hour at a Wendy’s restaurant, said she works six days a week to get 40 hours and earn a $435 paycheck.

“I might pay the mortgage, but then not be able to pay the light bill or pay the gas bill. Then I have to wait until the next check and not able to buy shoes or not able to buy diapers,” Caldwell said. “I just want to make sure we are able to live decent.”

Barber said workers such as Caldwell, who’s participated in three strikes, are putting a face on the campaign for better wages.

“This movement is intensifying and it is going to shake the moral consciousness of this country,” he said.

Wisconsin joins in Dec. 5 strikes for living wages

Fast-food workers across the country are going on strike today (Dec. 5) to demand better wages. Strikes are taking place in more than 130 cities in the United States.

A statement from Fast Food Forward said, “Workers will go on strike in every region of the continental United States and will be joined by supporters rallying in an additional 100 cities, as the fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation continues to grow. Workers are expected to strike at the nation’s major national fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC.”

Wisconsin is joining in the campaign, with minimum-wage workers and their allies demonstrating in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay and elsewhere.

Also, Wisconsin Jobs Now is circulating a petition calling for a living wage for workers in Milwaukee.

The petition states: “Milwaukee was once a bastion of the middle class. Sadly, over the last 30 years, good-paying jobs have been replaced by low-wage service sector positions that trap 196,000 Milwaukee-area workers in poverty. It doesn’t have to be this way – especially since a large number of these jobs are paid for with public tax dollars.

“Milwaukee must lead the way in the fight for good jobs. We urge our elected officials to take action to raise wages, because workers should be paid enough so that they can raise a family without public assistance.

“Let’s ensure that public resources are used to create good jobs.”

Meanwhile, inside the Beltway, the president on Dec. 4 restated his call for raising the minimum wage in a speech on economic mobility and income inequality.

Some members of Congress also called for better wages, including in their focus a plea for companies to do better by their employees. Fifty-three members of Congress wrote to McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson stating, “Too many hardworking families are being forced to depend on poverty-level wages. Paying fair wages and putting more spending money in the hands of consumers will strengthen our economy.”

On the Web …


Study details super-sized costs of fast food’s super low wages

The fast-food industry costs American taxpayers nearly $7 billion a year because its jobs pay so little that 52 percent of fast-food workers are forced to enroll their families in public assistance programs, according to a report released this week by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley.

Ken Jacobs, chair of the university’s Center for Labor Research and Education, said in a news release, “The taxpayer costs we discovered were staggering. People who work in fast-food jobs are paid so little that having to rely on public assistance is the rule, rather than the exception, even for those working 40 hours or more a week.”

Fast food is a $200 billion-year industry but nationally the median wage for front-line workers at the restaurants is $8.69 an hour and just 13 percent of the jobs offer health benefits.

The research found that fast food jobs also usually offer part-time hours.

The situation – low wages, few hours and poor benefits – leaves many workers in need of some help. The researchers said families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in public programs at more than twice the rate of the overall workforce.

The government assistance adds up to:

• Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, $3.9 billion per year.

• Earned Income Tax Credit payments, $1.95 billion per year.

• The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, $1.04 billion per year.

• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, $82 million per year.

According to the UC paper, the states where the fast-food industry’s low wages cost U.S. taxpayers the most are California at $717 million, New York at $708 million, Texas at $556 million, Illinois at $368 million and Florida at $348 million.

“This is the public cost of low-wage jobs in America,” said Berkeley economist Sylvia Allegretto, co-chair of the Center for Wage and Employment Dynamics. “The cost is public because taxpayers bear it. Yet it remains hidden in national policy debates about poverty, employment and public spending.”

Fast Food Forward provided the funding to conduct the research. The coalition consists of labor, religious and community groups campaigning for higher wages and fair employment at fast food restaurants.

The report’s release follows months of direct action demonstrations by fast-food workers in 60 cities, including Milwaukee, for better wages and benefits. In Wisconsin, researchers said there are an estimated 28,000 fast-food workers.

Marc Doussard, one of the report’s co-authors and an assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, said the report helps dispel the myth of fast-food workers as largely untrained teenagers.

“More than two-thirds of core frontline fast-food workers across the country are over the age of 20, and 68 percent are the main wage earners in their families,” Doussard said. “And more than a quarter of Americans working in fast-food restaurants are parents, raising at least one child.”