New York City Fast-Food Workers: Everyone Deserves a Living Wage

Richard TrumkaI was honored to be in New York City yesterday supporting Wendy’s workers take to the streets for a living wage. They joined hundreds of workers in other fast-food joints across New York City for the largest strike the fast-food industry had ever seen.

Their argument is simple: every worker deserves a living wage. And they understood the best way to do that is to come together to build collective power.

Their actions inspired me for two reasons. Speaking with them, it was clear their concerns were the same concerns that we fight for every day on the picket line or at the bargaining table.

These men and women work hard. Fast-food workers are being mistreated, and they’re underpaid. They feed our country. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. In New York City, workers in the fast-food industry only make 25% of the money they need to survive.

Second, it wasn’t a coincidence that they chose to strike on April 4, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Dr. King spent his last days rallying on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., who were fighting for the same respect and dignity these workers are asking for. He stood for a dream that every worker can believe in—whether he or she belongs to a union or not.

Yesterday, like those sanitation workers did 45 years ago, we carried signs that read, “I AM A MAN,” as well as “I AM A WOMAN.” It’s a reminder that while we’ve come a long way since 1968, the struggle for economic fairness never stops. And I am proud to stand with every worker who steps up to the plate in this fight.

This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on April 5, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Richard Trumka has been the AFL-CIO president since September 2009. He served as AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer since 1995. Trumka was elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council in 1989. At the time of his election to the secretary-treasurer post, he was serving his third term as president of the Mine Workers (UMWA). At the UMWA, Trumka led two major strikes against the Pittston Coal Co. and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. The actions resulted in significant advances in employee-employer cooperation and the enhancement of mine workers’ job security, pensions and benefits.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.