Fast Food Forward!: NYC’s Unprecedented Move Towards Labor Justice For Fast Food Workers!


Can you feel it? There’s something exciting going down in the labor movement! This month, we have seen the products of incredible organizing around worker rights in previously unorganized workplaces. Walmart workers all over the country striked on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, and did so with huge shows of solidarity.

And on Thursday, November 29th hundreds from over two dozen fast food restaurants went on a one day strike, demanding $15 an hour ages, a union contract, and an end to interference from management. These workers came form McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Domino’s KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. The cross-brand approach to low-wage worker union organizing with widespread community support poses a unique and revolutionary development in the labor movement. According to the New York State Department of Labor, the median wage for food service and preparation worker is $8.90/ hour, which is the lowest wage of any occupation and not close to a living wage in New York City.

According to the Fast Food Forward facebook page, the campaign launched this year by New York Communities for Change,

Fast food workers in New York City barely make enough to get by. Many of us make minimum wage – just $7.25 an hour, or as little as $11,000 a year. Meanwhile, the Goliath corporations we work for, like McDonalds, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut, are part of a $200 billion industry. These corporations reap huge profits and shower CEOs with exorbitant compensation while most of their employees qualify for food stamps.

We are uniting for $15 and our right to form a union without interference because we believe jobs should pay workers enough to afford food, clothing, and rent. Lifting wages will help lift the broader economy.

Though many consider these jobs are temporary or starter jobs for sixteen year olds, the average age of a fast food worker has gone up in recent years. The average age of a fast food worker in the U.S.A. is 28 years old; and the average age for women fast food workers is 32 years old. While corporate profits are at an all time high, fast food workers are living in homeless shelters, relying on government assistance, and having trouble affording basic needs like food, transportation, clothes and housing. Jonathan Westin, organizing director of NYCC, told Alice Hine at the Huffington Post:

“It’s not just your teenagers with after school jobs. It’s mothers, fathers and families. Especially now after the recession, a lot of people who lost work are now taking these jobs. Our economy is becoming a service sector economy but most of these jobs are minimum wage. This is a huge problem.”

We are thrilled to see how this campaign continues, and hope to support the efforts as much as possible. Labor organizing impacts all of us working in New York City, especially the low-income tenants we work with. The higher wages everyone in the city makes, the stronger our economy will be. Check out an awesome video here of allies calling for a Wendy’s employee who was fired from participating in the strike to be rehired. Some additional videos put out by the campaign can be found here and here.

Want to get involved with the campaign?

  • Sign the petition!
  • Sign up to get updates with Fast Food Forward!
  • Hit the streets today, with fast food, airport and car wash workers (5:00-6:00 in Times Square) to show your solidarity with fast food workers’ right to unionize!

Finally, we are unable to conclude this post without acknowledging the tragic loss of New York Communities For Change Executive Director, Jon Kest. From Fast Food Forward and stretching back through his awe-inspiring career, Jon Kest was an unwavering force behind organizing low-income and working New Yorkers for decades. We were lucky enough to get to work with New York Communities for Change most recently in our campaign against New York Community Bank, and the work that we do would be impossible without their support and the support of their affordable housing arm, MHANY. Gregory Basta, deputy director of NYCC eloquently wites:

Tonight we’ve lost a visionary, an innovator, a fighter, a gamechanger, a genius, a leader, a mentor, a father, a man who has cared for many, inspired hundreds more, and moved thousands more into action. Most of the world, even many within the same movement, have never even heard his name before. But for those of us who knew him and were inspired by him, we can only honor him by continuing to fight, continuing to bring change, and continuing to work for a more fair and just society.

Rest in Peace, and thank you for the amazing legacy you have left behind.


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