Fast-Food Workers: My Protest Paid Off

Krystal Maxi-CollinsBy Emily Jane Fox

From Part-Time To Full-Time:
Krystal Maxi-Collins, 29, worked at the Macy's department store off and on for two years, and was frustrated that she wasn't made a full-time employee. Her pay wasn't enough to support her family of four, so she worked a second job. When she asked her manager for a promotion earlier this year, she was passed over.

So Collins (pictured above) joined other retail and fast-food workers on April 24 in a rally outside of Chicago's Union Station asking their employers to give them better hours, wages and benefits.Soon after the rally, Collins' manager offered her a full-time position in the Macy's shoe department. Collins' pay went from $8.25 to $8.50 an hour, she was eligible for full benefits and her hours were bumped up to at least 32 per week.

"It makes you feel empowered," said Collins, who doesn't need to work a second job anymore and can spend more time with her family. "I didn't understand the power that people have when they speak up."

More:The Reality Of Working In The Fast Food Industry

Fired, Then Rehired, After Speaking Out:
Eddie Guzman needed to work at least 20 hours a week to be eligible for welfare programs, such as food stamps and affordable housing. But his requests for more hours at a Brooklyn Burger King were met with deaf ears. Guzman's managers kept his working hours between 12 and 15 a week.

Tired of waiting, Guzman (pictured above) joined a protest and signed a petition in March advocating for more hours and better pay. Two weeks later, he was fired. Guzman said that his manager told him that signing the petition disrespected him. One of the restaurant's managers, Imran Ali, said that Guzman was fired because he didn't give the store enough notice before not showing up for a shift.

"I didn't want to let them take advantage of me and not do anything about it," Guzman said. "I couldn't believe that I got fired just for that."

But community organizers and New York city council member Brad Lander went to the Burger King to ask for his job back. "New York's fast food workers have courageously stood up for fair pay and treatment and I've been honored to stand with them," Lander said.

Within days, Guzman had his job back and was scheduled to work at least 20 hours per week. "I wanted better for myself," he said.

More:McDonald's Server Would Need To Work 550 Years To Earn CEO's Pay

Her Weekly Hours Were Bumped Up:
Claudette WilsonClaudette Wilson had asked her manager for more hours and a raise for months, but he kept saying no. But just one day after joining a protest in Detroit, Wilson's hours were boosted to 35 from 25 per week.

"It gives me hope that I can stand up and make a change," Wilson (pictured above) said. "It means a lot less stress for me."

For Wilson, the change is a huge help. She started working as a crew member cooking and cleaning at Burger King three years ago, when she was 17. She worked 25 hours per week, making $7.40 an hour, while also attending school four days studying music production. Her wages were barely enough to cover the gas bill for her car.

"On top of my car, gas and insurance, I have to start paying my loans back in September," she said.

Wilson's store manager did not respond to requests for comment. Burger King said in a statement that the hiring, firing or other employment-related decisions are made by its franchisees.

More:McDonald's Pushes Employees To Be Cheerier

After Eight Years, A Promotion!
Robert Wilson Jr.Robert Wilson spent eight years showing new employees the ropes and training others to get better positions at McDonald's. But he was never able to move up the ranks himself. That was until he and other workers rallied on Black Friday outside of the location where he worked in Chicago's Navy Pier.

His managers saw Wilson protesting. The very next day, they told him that the position he had been gunning for was finally open. "They told me I was promoted and increased my pay to $8.60 an hour from $8.35," Wilson (pictured above) said. "I see a difference. I do feel better about things."

Wilson said that he joined the movement because he felt that he wasn't getting the respect that he deserved. His wages also weren't enough to pay for simple things -- such as a medical bill when he contracted pneumonia last year and had to shell out $200 for a prescription. "My job wasn't giving me what I needed to fulfill my basic needs," he said.

McDonald's and his store manager did not respond to requests for comment.

Lunchtime Live - The Reality of Working in the Fast Food Industry.M4v

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