By Jamie C. Baker
My first job was working at what is still one of my favorite fast food restaurants, specializing in chicken. The schedule was perfect and the benefits of free meals on break definitely appealed to me as a 16-year-old. I was quickly moved from a fry station to drive-thru based on my customer skills and speed.
Each location was independently owned and our owner, Mr. “Matt,” seemed to be a fairly good boss. Granted, he was way too enthused about giving me a 15 cent raise, but all in all he treated employees well.
One night, I was mopping the bathrooms after the dining area had closed, doing women’s first and then cleaning up in the men’s. Mr. “Matt” opened the swinging door and I assumed he was checking in on me, so I let him know that I was nearly done. He proceeded to unzip his pants and use the urinal in full view of me. And I mean in FULL VIEW. No 16-year-old girl needs to see an over 40-year-old ding-a-ling and I high-tailed it out of there!
Continue reading →
By Tal Mintz
Burnt hands carrying calloused fingers
I take pride in my work.
Smells of meat and sweat stain my clothes
I deserve every cent of that paycheck.
My co-workers threaten to strike for living wage, I cannot afford too.
In a sea of high school students, I am trying to pay my rent.
In a sea of debt, bills, and taxes, I am trying to stay afloat.
You see my dad was poor and his dad was poor
And I’m poor but have a degree, but my child will likely be poor like me.
The American Dream of socioeconomic mobility
Is now a modern day caste system where we celebrate the few who achieve.
Continue reading →
April 15, 2015
by Lisa Calcasola
By the time the Fight for 15 protests stopped in Times Square in Manhattan on , it was dark. People who had been preparing for the event weeks ahead of time dropped their signs on the side of the road to be recycled and went their separate ways.
Even with most of the protestors gone, the space still felt electric with its energy. I talked with Chantelle and Monica; Monica had a camera around her neck. I asked if she was interested in film, and she told me she was in film school now, studying to be a director. Film is one of the most accessible forms of media there is, and can reach a multifaceted audience, she said.
“I’m really interested in documentaries,” Monica said. “Film can shed light on lots of social issues and get the word out, teach people about what’s going on.”
When asked what she thought today’s biggest message was about, Chantelle feistily replied, “It’s all about not letting corporations steal from the people.”
“Corporations make billions of dollars and what’re they doing with it? They’re keeping it for themselves and stealing from the people. Today is all about making sure we don’t let them win. We won’t go down without a fight.” Continue reading →
By Lisa Calcasola
Among those rallying the Fight for 15, a raise in the minimum wage this week, was Jesse Jones. The goal: a $15 an hour minimum wage increase and the right for workers to unionize.
Mr. Jones just started working at Wendy’s fast food restaurant
just a week and a half ago, specifically in order to join Wednesday’s protests as a fast food worker.
“I don’t have much to say,” Mr. Jones began. “See that lady over there? She organized this whole event. You should talk to her.”
“We’ve been doing this thing for a few years now,” he began, referring to the Fight for 15 rallies.
“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger and we’re not gonna stop until we win. We can’t stop.”
When asked what he personally would do with the minimum wage raise, Mr. Jones laughed and
“But really,” he said. “People would do whatever they wanted to do. They’d have more leisure
time to get with friends, or get that iced coffee, or whatever. The point is they’d have more time
to live, instead of just working and sacrificing and feeling like none of it is paying off.”
“I’m thirty-eight years old now. It’s too late for me. But I fight for the younger generation, too, so that you and your kids won’t be in the same position we’ve been in. Students have a lot of problems, too, with increased student loan debt. They’re also forced to take minimum-wage jobs to get by.”
Continue reading →
April 15, 2015
By Lisa Calcasola
The last time that the federal minimum wage was raised, from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour, was in July of 2009, the last of a three-step increase approved by Congress in 2007. Before 2007, however, the rate had been stuck at $5.15/hour for 10 years.
This April 15, 2015 was an important day for thousands of people across the United States and even worldwide. The Fight for 15 movement, whose mission statement is to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour by the end of 2015 and allow workers the right to unionize, made a statement as thousands of people in over 200 hundred cities and 35 countries gathered to protest. The Fight for 15 movements began in New York City, when 200 people, mostly fast food workers, went on strike after Thanksgiving Day in 2012.
As living expenses continue going up, it has become more and more important to watch over every dollar entering one’s bank account. Working long hours, some of which go undocumented (and thus where the slogan “overworked and underpaid” comes from in this year’s Manhattan protest) for years and years while not seeing a difference being made despite one’s efforts and reliability is discouraging to workers across the country and globe. Worse, since prices on daily
necessities are increasing and wages are not, workers often sacrifice time with their family and loved ones to work even longer hours just to keep that bubble of financial security.
The Fight for 15 demonstrations in Manhattan began at 4 p.m. with a stirring rally to prepare for the 6 p.m. march from 59th street at Central Park to 42nd street in Times Square. Workers from homecare, childcare, hotels, fast food restaurants and other fields held signs such as “Fight for 15 and Raise America”, “Worker’s Need, not Corporation Greed”, and “Invisible No More.”
Ms. Joy Watts was one of the many women marching in the crowd, wearing a purple “I’m a Proud 1199 Homecare Worker” sticker on her white scrubs. Ms. Watts has worked with the same patient for eight years and has not seen a change in wages in 10. Continue reading →
Interesting article in the New York Times today. Click here.
On Thursday, Dec. 4, the Fight for 15 campaign staged another wave of one-day strikes, this time in more than 150 cities, with home care aides and convenience store workers joining the protests in several of them. Terrance Wise was at the forefront in Kansas City, demonstrating outside McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s restaurants. Steve Greenhouse of the NY Times tells his story.
A new study looks at how fast-food workers in Denmark earn considerably more than in the United States and still earn a profit. A hamburger costs slightly more, but nowhere near as much as the wage difference. Click here for The New York Times story.
As part of a continuing New York Times Metro series on the workplace, reporter Rachel Swarns on Monday (Sept. 29, 2014) described what happened to one worker trying to balance three jobs with a nap turned wrong:
Fascinating and analytical article on the campaign for living wage, fast-food workers, SEIU’s involvement and people affected by all of it. Click here.
Slate Magazine argues that the fast food job actions have reinvigorated Organized Labor and have shifted public perceptions of the needs to protect low-wage workers. See the story here.