Fast food workers across the nation went on strike Thursday. Their demand is a $15 minimum wage and unionization rights, and Oakland workers have joined the strike.
Strikers met at a McDonald’s on Jackson Street, where a common rallying cry was, “We can’t survive on $8.25!” Some workers walked off the job and joined the crowd. Photos posted on social media show strikers outside of McDonald’s and Jack In The Box, and include a striker dressed as a disgruntled Ronald McDonald. KPFA’s Up Front program interviewed a striking Oakland worker from KFC who told host Brian Edwards-Tiekert she made “poverty wages,” and was forced to turn to food stamps and Medicaid because of the low wages her job provided. Walking out on the job at KFC, she met with other strikers at a McDonald’s at Jackson and 14th.
Walkouts and work stoppages of this kind have been going on sporadically for the past year, initially starting in New York City. Many of the organizing workers are long-time fast food employees who find themselves unable to support themselves and/or their families on the low wages the industry pays. This combined with the demands of constant customer service performance, erratic work hours, and no union representation has pushed many workers to participate in the biggest fast-food strike in US history as well as a potential escalation in a historic labor challenge to the fast-food industry.
Strikers outside the McDonald’s (and later at a Jack In The Box on International Boulevard) also spoke about their struggle to choose between paying for food, rent, or health care. This scenario has forced some workers to rely on food stamps — which ends up being a government subsidy to the huge fast food companies who then themselves rely on federal assistance to make up the difference between the wage they pay and the needs of their employees. This same issue has also compelled Walmart workers across the nation to walk out and strike for better wages and working conditions.
The median fast food wage in the nation is $8.50 an hour, and though California will raise its minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016, strikers say at least $15 an hour is both necessary and fair. This argument is not unique to workers and unions. Some economists agree fully with the $15 demand, and many others, including 100 economists who signed a petition to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.50, recognize that an increase is needed.
Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes