Fast-food workers in Detroit joining a growing wave of walkouts over wages
Friday, May 10, 2013
- Organization: The Washington Post
- Source: National > National Wage and Hour Clearinghouse
Hundreds of fast-food workers in Detroit are poised to walk off their jobs on Friday, joining a growing wave of protest against the wages paid in one of the most rapidly growing segment of the nation’s labor market. The strike in Detroit — a city ravaged by crumbling municipal finances, a hollowed-out urban core and the long-term decline of auto industry jobs — follows similar labor actions that hobbled fast-food restaurants and prominent retailers in New York, Chicago and, this week, St. Louis. In these cities, the unusual coalition of workers, who traditionally have not been unionized, took to the streets to complain about low pay and what they call often-shabby treatment by their employers. Protest supporters say the job actions have broad implications for the nation’s workforce. With the long decline of manufacturing jobs and other well-paying positions that do not require advanced educational credentials accelerating during the recession, jobs at fast-food restaurants and retailers represent the future of work for many Americans. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that seven of the 10 fastest-growing occupations over the next decade will be low-wage ones, such as home health aides, store clerks, food preparation workers and laborers.
Detroit 15, a coalition of religious and labor groups organizing the protests in that city, is pushing for fast-food restaurants to raise their pay, eventually to $15 an hour. Right now, workers, many of whom are paid close to Michigan’s $7.40 per hour minimum wage, say they are barely getting by. “The growth of this entire thing has been quite organic,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II, a leader in Detroit 15 and president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network. “People are upset that their wages are low and their working conditions are bad. The divide between rich and poor has gotten greater and people have decided that there has to be more equality.” Gregory Williams, 57, for decades worked selling cars, then insurance and then medical equipment, but he finally had to resort this year to his current job, working the grill on the graveyard shift at a McDonald’s restaurant in Southfield, Mich. “I have bills to pay. Rent, food, just basic needs. How can I do that on $7.50 an hour?” he said. “Fast food is a $200 billion industry; they can do better than $7.50 an hour.” (click on link to read full story)