At several New York fast-food restaurants today, workers have walked off the job to protest what they feel are corporate efforts to stifle their unionization efforts. At locations like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell across the city, workers are angling for higher wages in what they say is the first multi-restaurant fast-food strike in American history. And several of the leading candidates for mayor, all Democrats, want everyone to know they have the strikers’ back.
“I support New York’s fast-food workers’ demand for decent wages they can live on to support families, pay bills and put food on the table,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement. “Fast-food companies are some of the wealthiest in America, yet many of their employees earn far below the federal poverty level. These business practices are unacceptable. All working New Yorkers deserve a living wage and the opportunity to join the middle class. I am behind the city’s fast-food workers who are standing up for this right and fighting for fair pay and an economy that works for everyone.”
For his part, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio used lofty rhetoric to describe the situation.
“This is the moment for New York City to turn the corner after a decade of rising income inequality,” he declared. “We need nothing less than a citywide movement to uplift New Yorkers struggling to make their way into the middle class. Asserting the right to organize is never easy. We need to stand united as a city in support of fast food workers so they can win the fair pay and economic security every New Yorker deserves.”
And 2009 nominee Bill Thompson, the only announced candidate on the Democratic side of the aisle, lamented the industry’s poor working conditions.
“Fast Food workers have the right to organize and demand a decent wage to support themselves and their families,” he wrote on Facebook. “Many hardworking fast food employees earn less than $18,000 a year making it nearly impossible to afford food, clothing, rent and school supplies for their children on their current wages. I stand with the fast food workers today who are standing up for better wages.”
The fourth Democratic candidate likely to run, Comptroller John Liu, has reportedly promised comment soon. Update: (1:37 p.m.): And here it is:
“Too many New York City fast-food workers don’t earn enough to put food on their own tables, and they have every right to organize and demand decent wages. It’s a shame that many fast-food workers have to rely on public assistance when the corporations they work for are among the wealthiest in the nation and their CEOs earn millions. Jobs that don’t pay a fair wage contribute to the City’s widening income gap, which hurts the economy as a whole. This is a fight that matters to us all.”
The various potential Republican candidates, less interested in union support for their bids, are likely to be less positive about the situation. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who can be both pro-business and anti-fast-food consumption, might be conflicted, however.