Hispanic Fast Food Workers Join Global Strike

Thousands of fast food employees went on strike yesterday to demand a raise of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. (Photo by Humberto Arellano via El Diario).

Thousands of fast food employees went on strike on May 15 to demand a raise of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. (Photo by Humberto Arellano via El Diario).

Thousands of employees working for McDonald’s, Burger King and 12 other fast food chains went on strike on Thursday to demand a raise of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, joining a protest for higher wages held simultaneously  in 230 cities in 33 countries.

A story by Zaira Cortés in El Diario/La Prensa focuses on the Hispanic workers who led the way during the demonstration, which was commented about on Twitter (#FastFoodGlobal) and other social networks throughout the day.

An estimated 40 Latino workers spearheaded a mass of some 500 people who marched from Herald Square at 34th Street up to 40th and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan while chanting slogans for a fair wage.

“I have worked at Papa John’s for three years without a single raise,” said Daniel Bermúdez. “The cost of living is burying us alive while these companies get richer with our work.”

A mid-morning rain shower did not deter Próspero Sánchez from chanting. Sánchez has worked at a Domino’s Pizza in Washington Heights for over 10 years.

“My job isn’t only to deliver pizzas. I am supposed to do many other tasks that they aren’t paying me for,” said Sánchez. “We are not afraid; it’s hundreds of us fighting for justice.”

According to the article, the campaign originated in New York in November 2012, when 200 fast food workers claimed a raise and the right to form a union without retaliation from their employers.

Between August and December of the same year, the workers put together a class action against McDonald’s, demanding a raise to $15 per hour.

Currently, the average salary for a fast food worker is $9 per hour, or some $18,500 per year. That is $4,500 below the poverty threshold, which is $23,000 for a family of four as established by the U.S. Census Bureau.

“‘McJobs’ are an impediment to our economy’s progress,” said New York State Assemblyman Karim Camara, president of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.

Also known as the RaiseUpNY bill, proposal S6516/A9036 would allow cities to enforce minimum wages higher than the federal rate. The draft is being backed by both Assemblyman Camara and state Sen. for Yonkers Andrea Stewart-Cousins. The minimum wage in New York State is currently $8 per hour.

“I want to thank the workers for their brave actions,” said Cousins. “The current minimum wage paid to our men and women is shamefully low.”

“Fast food chains like McDonald’s pay as little as possible to their employees, who are mainly immigrants and people of color,” said Naquasia Le Grand, a 22-year-old who has worked at a Park Slope KFC for three years, and one of the leaders of the so-called “Fast Food Movement.”

The article goes on to say that the police did not report any violent incidents or arrests during the demonstration. The strike was organized by International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), a global federation of trade unions based in Switzerland which has a worldwide membership of over 12 million workers.

Local organizations such as Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change also supported the event.

A story by Cristina Loboguerrero published the previous day also in El Diario/La Prensa highlighted the plight of underpaid Latino workers in fast food restaurants.

“It is impossible to live with an $8 an hour salary. Especially when you only get to work 20 hours per week,” said 47-year-old Rosa Rivera, who has been working as a cook at a McDonald’s in Manhattan for over 14 years.

With that money, the Bronx resident – who was born in El Salvador – feeds three children and pays a rent of almost $700. She plans to attend the nationwide protest.

“With the $200 I make, I must support my 12 year old. It is barely enough to put food on the table,” said 42-year-old Ángela Contreras. Born in Honduras, Contreras works at a Wendy’s and calls her situation “unsustainable.”

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