Unionization Is Next Step For Fast Food Workers

  May 16, 2014

Unionization Is Next Step For Fast Food Workers

Workers are demanding $15 an hour wage with a right to unionize without retaliation as fast food CEOs are earning 1200 times more than the average employee
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Jessica Desvarieux is a multimedia journalist who serves as the Capitol Hill correspondent for the Real News Network. Most recently, Jessica worked as a producer for the ABC Sunday morning program, This Week with Christianne Amanpour. Before moving to Washington DC, Jessica served as the Haiti corespondent for TIME Magazine and TIME.com. Previously, she was as an on-air reporter for New York tri-state cable outlet Regional News Network, where she worked before the 2010 earthquake struck her native country of Haiti. From March 2008 - September 2009, she lived in Egypt, where her work appeared in various media outlets like the Associated Press, Voice of America, and the International Herald Tribune - Daily News Egypt. She graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism with a Master of Science degree in journalism. She is proficient in French, Spanish, Haitian Creole, and has a working knowledge of Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Follow her @Jessica_Reports.


Unionization Is Next Step For Fast Food WorkersJESSICA DESVARIEUX, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, TRNN: Fast food workers from all over the world are calling for a raise. All the way from Tokyo, Japan, to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and even Stateside in cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, they want a living wage of $15 an hour and the right to unionize without retaliation.

This historic mass fast food workers protest took place in 150 cities and 33 countries. And Tanisha Green from Richmond, Virginia, is one fast food worker who protested for a wage increase.

TANISHA GREEN, FAST FOOD WORKER, KFC: Right now, all of our fast food workers are still at $7.25 an hour, and we're trying to raise that. We want to be--we work hard, and we also would like to be compensated for as hard as we work.

DESVARIEUX: Work that has seen much of a pay increase since the year 2000. According to a new Demos report, the average fast-food worker has seen her total pay increase by just 0.3 percent. And in 2013, she would be making less money, while CEO salaries have gone up. In 2012, the compensation of fast food CEOs was more than 1,200 times the earnings of the average fast food worker.

AMY TRAUB, SENIOR POLICY ANALYST, DEMOS: Fast food really is leading the pay disparity in this country. CEOs are making 1,200 times more than their average employee. That's more than any other industry in this country. So to argue that there simply isn't money there for a raise, frankly, is disingenuous.

DESVARIEUX: Despite a growing number of demonstrations calling for increasing the minimum wage, Congress has yet to act. The Democratically controlled Senate did not garner enough support on both sides of the aisle to put the Harkin-Miller bill up for a vote. That bill would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. But members of the House's Progressive Caucus say they will continue to wage this battle.

KEITH ELLISON, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (D-MN): Because we don't have an increase in minimum wage yet, no one, including me, has done enough, including the president. We all got to do more to make sure that these jobs pay livable wages.

DESVARIEUX: During Thursday's protests, some on-duty workers walked off the job to join the protestors.

The faces of fast food workers proves what the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been saying all along: only 30 percent of fast-food workers are teenagers. The majority are adults with responsibilities like children.

Protestors say this day of action is a step in the right direction.

But why has it taken so long to unionize this job sector in the United States?

TRAUB: When workers want to band together and form a union, they just need to collect a majority of signatures on union cards from workers in that workplace. And when a majority of them sign the card, they've got a union, and the employer needs to bargain with them then, legally. In the United States we have an election system that is very slow, that gives employers a lot of time to try to stop their employees from exercising their legal right to organize a union.

DESVARIEUX: Organizing a union is the ultimate goal, and workers like Tanaisha say they won't stop until they have it their way.

TANISHA GREEN, FAST FOOD WORKER, KFC: Today a lot of people were scared to come out because there are some employers that are threatening to fire anyone who goes out to the strike or decrease your hours. You know. And these people have pills to pay. And it's bad enough that we're only getting paid $7.25 on a part-time wage. You know what I'm saying? And it just doesn't--it's not right, and we shouldn't have to be blackmailed for standing up for our rights and doing what's right.

PROTESTERS: No, justice, no peace! No, justice, no peace!

DESVARIEUX: For The Real News, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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