Last week on Black Friday, the largest retail day of the year, Walmart employees and labor rights activists went on strike and protested at 1,500 Walmart locations. The reasons for the Black Friday strike, as well as several others occurring all year, include meager wages and skimpy work hours.
Labor rights activists and retail/service industry workers are far from finished, however. On Thursday, fast food workers across the country will strike in 100 cities demanding the same benefits as the Walmart employees.
The massive, 100-city strike is being organized by the union-backed groups Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15, named for the group’s push to have fast food chains pay their employees the livable wage of $15 per hour. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is providing support for the labor groups and the workers they represent.
Retaining the same narrative as the Walmart storyline, fast food employees fear the same type of retaliation from their employers, which groups like the SEIU is trying to resolve.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and those aged 25 – 54 make up the bulk of fast food workers despite the industry saying that those jobs are for people under 25. The industry also says that “only a small percentage” earn around minimum wage, however, 70 percent make from $7.26 to $10.09 per hour. Many are raising families.
The Fight for 15 campaign started to gain steam earlier this year when the group launched strikes in New York City, Chicago, and St. Louis. And the pay is so low, that even if someone wanted to move on to greener pastures, workers sometimes ill-afford to do so.
“It’s very difficult to live off $8.07 an hour,” said 23-year old Simon Rojas, whose low wages can’t earn him enough to save for a pharmacy technician’s certificate. “I have to live with my parents. I would like to be able to afford a car and an apartment.”