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POLITICS

Wave of strikes hits fast food industry

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

I should have noted this a few days ago, but workers at restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s Pizza and others went on strike late last week in New York demanding higher wages, about twice the minimum wage that many of them work for now:

“By far, it will be one of the biggest actions that fast- food workers have taken in this country,” Jonathan Westin, executive director of advocacy group and organizer New York Communities for Change, said in an interview before the strike. The employees want $15-an-hour pay and the right to form a union, he said. …

Employees from about 60 restaurants are striking, which may force some locations to close, Westin said.

“At several of the stores we will have the majority of the workforce in the stores out on strike,” he said. “It will be difficult for businesses to continue as usual.”

A Burger King store in Brooklyn opened late today because of the strike, Miguel Piedra, a company spokesman, said in an e- mail. Burger King restaurants offer pay and benefits that are consistent with the industry, he said.

Tabitha Verges, 29, who has worked at a Burger King in Harlem as a cashier and cook for about four years, was among the company’s employees to walk off the job today.

“I’m fed up and I’m asking for $15 hour and to create a union without intimidation,” said Verges, who makes $7.25 an hour. “I can barely get by,” she said, speaking in a telephone interview. “I borrow from people to pay my bills. I’m trying really hard not to get on welfare.”

The fast-food industry has been largely immune to workplace organizing, mainly because of the high turnover rate for workers there. Of course, that high turnover rate is largely due to the low wages these jobs pay.

At the same time, McDonald’s is also facing a strike from the foreign workers it imported via a guest-worker program. The action comes as Big Business and Big Labor have come to a tentative agreement on a guest-worker program provision in a proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The guest worker program was a major issue holding up the bill, with unions opposed to allowing the workers in, arguing they displace domestic workers and drive down wages. The Nation reported that the foreign worker strike was spearheaded by the National Guestworker Alliance, a labor group.

Will labor be able to prevail? Who knows? If they do, you can definitely say goodbye to the $5 footlong.

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