NYC fast food strikes

From the September-October 2013 issue of News & Letters:

NYC fast food strikes

New York—They walked off the job in Brooklyn. They struck in Manhattan. They marched in Queens and in the Bronx. Yes, the fast food workers of New York, along with those in seven other cities, are on the move and demanding nothing less than to be treated as human beings on the job, not replaceable parts in a giant fast food industry machine.

In New York City several hundred walked off the job, and there were marches from different points around the city organized by the New York based “Communities for Change” along with local unions. The strikers in Brooklyn began at six in the morning and marched from one fast food restaurant to another across the borough, finally arriving at Manhattan’s historic Union Square.

There, people holding strike signs filled the upper part of the square. A woman who worked for Kentucky Fried Chicken in Brooklyn told me of her working conditions: “Horrible. The bosses abuse us and I don’t make enough to survive.”

A Latino bakery worker said he had worked in the fast food industry and was there to show solidarity with the strikers. A woman who worked at Burger King told me that she and her partner were abused by their bosses, receiving minimum wages and no benefits. Her partner said there was no air-conditioning in the food prep area, and they only had a floor fan to blow hot air around, providing no relief for the workers.

As the rally grew in size, people began chanting, “We can’t survive on $7.25,” the New York and U.S. minimum wage, and “What do we want? Justice!” The struggle shows no signs of abating. On the July 29, hundreds dared their bosses to fire them for striking. Soon there will be thousands. One day, as an organizer told me, “We’ll shut the whole system down!”

—Michael Gilbert

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