Today, workers from ~70 fast food restaurants across New York City are marking the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by standing up for what's right and going on strike to demand better wages and the right to form a union without intimidation. Following in the footsteps of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strikers and MLK, hundreds of NYC workers walked off the job in the second citywide day of strikes in New York's fast food industry.
Forty-five years ago, sanitation workers in Memphis, TN, were facing the same struggle. They went on strike to demand dignity for all workers. Joined by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the eve of his assassination, Memphis strikers declared to the world, "I AM A MAN."
The average worker in the fast food industry earns around $18,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of the jobs are only part-time hours, and many come without basic benefits. The result is fast food workers living in poverty without enough to meet even basic needs. Many of these workers are forced to rely on food stamps and some even live in homeless shelters.
Meanwhile, the $200 billion dollar fast food industry made of giants like McDonalds,
Wendy's, Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut continues to make money hand over fist - and they've made the mistake of thinking they can ignore the workers who make their profit possible. Fast food workers are standing up today to show that they're not just 'cheap labor' -- they're men and women who want nothing more than to be treated with dignity and be let earn an honest living.
Higher wages would put more money in the hands of workers -- which in turn means more money spent in local shops and a boost for our community. "I'm not trying to be a millionaire working at Taco Bell, but I do want the basics," said Chad Tall, a Taco Bell worker from the Bronx. "I don't want to have to sacrifice breakfast to buy a Metro Card."
The Memphis strikers showed us there is nothing to fear in standing up for what's right and ensuring we won't be ignored any longer. As Memphis sanitation striker Alvin Turner said "in order to win, you have to stand up and be counted."
Fast food workers will finish out the day of actions with a large rally and march this evening.