ON STRIKE! Fast food workers in Milwaukee walk off the job
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Fast-food workers walked off their jobs in dozens of cities on Thursday, May 15th — demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
In Milwaukee, people gathered outside a McDonald’s restaurant on Capitol Drive on Thursday morning.
The fast food workers are also demanding the right to form a union without retaliation.
Thursday’s protest builds on protests that first launched 18 months ago.
“The Milwaukee County Board passed a living wage ordinance that’s going to guarantee county-contracted workers a fair wage. We want corporations like McDonald’s to stand up and do the right thing by their workers and guarantee all of their workers and livable wage — and safe and fair working conditions,” Jennifer Epps-Addison, the Executive Director of Wisconsin Jobs Now said.
Workers on Thursday joined strikes in 150 cities and several countries.
Nakiel Clemons went on strike outside Burger King, where he works in Durham, N.C..
Nakiel is 33 years old and has a one-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. He earns $7.45 an hour and said he can’t survive on his meager earnings.
“I can’t worry about my manager seeing me on the strike line, I have to speak out,” said Nakiel.
In Philadelphia, Justice Wallace, a 19-year-old Subway restaurant worker also marched in the heart of the city. She earns $7.50 an hour and recently joined the National Guard to help supplement her income.
“I believe all the companies heard us today and I feel good about that,” said Wallace, who has a two-year-old daughter.
In New York, Luis Vasquez took a break to talk to CNNMoney outside a Domino’s Pizza, where strikers gathered for a midday rally.
Vasquez is 19 years old and works at a Chipotle outlet in Grand Central Station earning $9 an hour. He is the main source of income for his family, which collects food stamps and takes government help to “pay the rent.” A high school graduate, Vasquez started going to college, but had to drop out because “work got in the way.”
“What I am trying to say to companies today is share the profit … We are not asking for cars or fancy vacations, we just want to feed our families,” said Vasquez.
Currently, the median pay for fast-food workers is just over $9 an hour, or about $18,500 a year. That’s roughly $4,500 lower than the Census Bureau’s poverty threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four.
The “Fight for $15” campaign started in New York in November 2012, when 200 fast-food workers demanded $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation.
Union organizers say the movement has elevated the debate about inequality in the U.S. and helped raise the minimum wage in some states.
The movement in its current leg has also gone global. There were reports of protest marches in Tokyo, Seoul and London.