Chanting "You can't survive on $7.25!" and "Hey hey, ho ho, minimum wage has got to go!," employees from fast food restaurants throughout the city gathered in Brooklyn Friday to demand higher and mores supportive wages and called for the right to form a union.
"It's about labor standards," said Council Member Letitia James, D-Fort Greene. "This is about respecting the right to organize. This is about the American dream, this is about democracy."
Joined by elected officials and the Coalition for the Homeless, United NY, New York Communities for Change, and VOCAL-NY, fast food workers told their stories outside the Auburn Family Center, a homeless shelter where many individuals employed by these chains reside.
"It's a struggle to wake up every day in the shelter with my kids, knowing that my check this week isn't going to be enough to get out," said Pamela Flood, a Burger King employee living at the shelter with her three children. "$7.25 is not an option. We should be getting $15 an hour to maintain a living."
Fifteen dollars an hour and the right to form a union would make it possible to find housing, support families and reach a better standard of living, those on strike say.
“These corporations make massive profits, too often at the expense of workers who must turn to food stamps, Medicaid, and other government programs to make ends meet,” said Council Member Brad Lander, D-Brooklyn.
Lander noted that the government should not have to subsidize these corporations' practices with government assistance such as food stamps and housing. “I hope New York’s fast food industry will do the right thing by paying its staff the wage they need and letting them join a union,” he continued.
Council Member Jumaane Williams, D-Ditmas Park, agreed, saying: "The least they could do is pay a salary so people don't have to live in a homeless shelter."
"I’ve worked hard at McDonald’s for three years, and after all that time and work, I should be making enough to get by on own," said Alterique Hall, who used to receive food stamps and fears he will have to go back on the program.
"We, as a city, cannot continue to allow multibillion dollar corporations to thrive at the expense of low-income workers. We must do better. We must require that these companies pay their workers a real living wage,” said Council Member Steve Levin, D-Brooklyn.