Early Thursday, Alterique Hall should have been inside a Midtown Manhattan McDonald's, making burgers. Instead, he stood outside chanting, "We can't survive on $7.25." A McDonald's server for three years, the 24-year-old Hall is participating in a city-wide strike of fast food workers. The chief demand: To raise wages to $15 an hour. By noon, the strike organizers, Fast Food Forward, a coalition of labor activists and workers, confirmed to AOL Jobs that the early turnout meant that the day represented the largest organized action ever for fast food workers.
"We are sick and tired of working like this everyday," Hall tells AOL Jobs, noting he works 30 to 39 hours a week and so doesn't receive benefits. He says all the servers at his McDonald's branch are kept part-time so that the company doesn't have to pay benefits. He earns $8 an hour, but the organizers, Fast Food Forward, a coalition of labor activists and workers, say fast food workers make anywhere from minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $9, which results in an annual salary of about $18,000 a year. The strikers, who are currently not a member of any union, also are demanding full-time hours and benefits.
The rally is slated to take place at 70 fast food outlets throughout the city on Thursday, including at branches of Burger King and Wendy's. Thursday is also the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which took place in Memphis, a day after King delivered his speech, "I've Been To The Mountaintop" in defense of the city's striking sanitation workers. Organizers are expecting some 400 workers to take part by day's end. Roughly 100 people were at the morning rally at McDonald's branch at 51st and Seventh Avenue, but most were organizers -- not workers, according to organizers. Hall said his colleagues are "intimidated, so they keep working."
Reached by e-mail, McDonald spokeswoman Lisa Labrado defended the company's pay scale.
"Employees are paid competitive wages and have access to a range of benefits to meet their individual needs," she wrote in an e-mail to AOL Jobs.
The day of action is a follow up to similar organizing back in November, when about 200 fast food workers took part in a citywide strike, which was the first such strike of its kind, experts said at the time.
Hall, who is single, says his wage is barely enough to support him. He says he struggles to have enough money on hand for his subway commute and is forced to get by on eating Ramen noodles.