New York, NY – The Fight for $15 campaign launched in 2012, succeeded in lifting the minimum wage, but without a union, fast food workers at McDonald’s Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and the rest of the big chain eateries, are still vulnerable to on the job sexual harassment, intimidation, wage theft, unreliable scheduling, favoritism and more.
A nebulous franchisee model that helps shields parent corporations from responsibility coupled with high turnover rates and intensely high levels of job insecurity — all contribute to making it extremely difficult for organizers to convince wary coworkers to unionize.
Bernie Sanders’ recently unveiled his “Workplace Democracy” Plan and goal of doubling union membership during his first term in office as president of the United States — but fast food workers in this town are already pressing hard for union representation despite the existing roadblocks in their way.
“I have a service manager who’s about 20-years-old and he’s screaming at a 65-year-old [worker] — and no one speaks up,” 21-year-old Chipotle worker Jahaira Garcia tells LaborPress. “There is no respect there at all. It’s very devastating.”
Working fast food may be hectic, but Chipotle worker Jeremy Espinal, 20, says he welcomes the hard work and likes interacting with customers. What he can’t abide, he says, is a workplace “culture” that continually seeks to demean and disrespect employees.
“They do this kind of stuff to beat you down mentally and make you feel that you’re not doing good enough, so that they can milk you and get the most that they can out of you,” the Hunter College student says. “Managers beat down the workers, they make them feel crappy and all of this stuff. They also hold over you, the fact that you can be fired at any moment.”
The Service Employees International Union [SEIU] started partnering with fast food workers in the Fight for $15 campaign seven years ago, and continues to support workers in the fight for unionization.
Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ SEIU, says that as revolutionary as the Fight For $15 campaign has been — it’s time to truly fulfill the goal of unionization.