Fast food workers ‘fight for $15’

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Fast food workers ‘fight for $15’


COLUMNS / The new age movers and shakers   /   Jun 04, 2015
Kulbir Manhas
Kulbir Manhas
Kulbir writes about politics, social issues and technology. He has worked in an NGO for several years.

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Workers in the fast food industry are struggling to survive on the dismal wages. Thousands of workers are joining ‘Fight for $15’, a movement for demanding higher wages for fast-food workers and their right to unionize.
 
In India, fast joints like McDonald’s cater to the middle and upper-middle class urban youth.  And, the wages are no different. In fact, when the workers in the United States are being paid measly, wages for the workers here are also low.

Mona Lee, 20, starts work at MacDonald’s in Kansas City, Missouri, at 6 a.m. and calls her day off at 1 pm, then goes to work for Sonic, where she ends her shift at 8 pm, according to an article published in Slate on May 18. She makes $7.25 an hour and is still not able to get enough money to live decently.

Mona says, “I don't understand how I can work at two jobs and not have enough money to put food in the house. We need to be able to live.”

She is one of the thousands of workers who have joined Fight for $15. Besides, she is also affiliated with the local labor organization Stand UP KC, which showcases the lives of workers through photographs in increasing awareness about their condition.

 ‘I, too, am America’ was the theme of the photographs exhibited at Kansas City’s Talk Shop Gallery on May 31.

Under the guidance of photojournalist Steve Hebert, workers involved in the exhibition started photographing themselves last March. However, Hebert has photographed the movement ever since it started.

Workers used mobile phone cameras to shoot over 4,000 images at home, work and while participating in demonstrations. The photographs bring out the financial hardships and long hours they have to put in. There are also photographs showing the workers sharing lighter moments with their families.  

“I've spent 20 years trying to work my way into places to make pictures of what I think is interesting in peoples' lives. The technology today allows people to do that themselves,” said Herbert. “These workers were just shooting as they went. What you get is a variety of different peoples' lives and experiences and the things they see, whether it's walking to work, on strike, or with their kids.”

Zoey Abbey, 32, is another worker whose story is featured in the Slate, a US-based online magazine. He works at Popeyes and makes $ 8 an hour.  She also featured in the exhibit. She said that $ 15 wage would allow her to pay all her bills. Moreover, she might even be able to make a down payment for a house.

She hopes that her photographs would clear away the misconception that all fast-food workers are teenagers living with their parents with no responsibilities.

“It’s about educating the public. It’s about letting them know how we live. We’re not that different from you. We want to live and we want to thrive,” she said.

The Fight for $15 has gathered momentum with 60,000 low-wage workers joining the movement in the month of April. In a New York Times op-ed, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to raise the pay of thousands of fast food workers in the state.  
 
 

The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi. The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi.
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