New York, NY – Low-wage earners utilizing passage of last year’s Fast Food Worker Empowerment Bill to create a first of its kind
non-profit advocacy group funded through automatic paycheck deductions, are vowing to agitate for a lot more than a $15 an hour minimum wage in the coming years.
Fast Food Justice needed just 500 low-wage workers to join the organization to be officially registered with the Department of Consumer Affairs. This week, the group announced they have far exceeded that threshold with more than 1,200 workers signed up.
“I never dreamed we would come together like this and achieve so much, so quickly,” Fast Food Justice member Shantel Walker told those gathered at NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office on Wednesday. “Skeptics didn’t believe we could do it. But we fought, and we won.”
Walker was working at Papa John’s and earning about $7.50 an hour when the industry-changing Fight for $15 campaign kicked off in Brooklyn five years ago. Today, fast food workers in New York City earn $13.50 an hour as a result of those efforts, and will finally achieve a $15 an hour minimum wage by the end of next year.
While at the time time sparking regressive conservative attempts to undermine the gains, similar successes have been replicated across the country.
With a phased in $15 minimum wage achieved in NYC, Fast Food Justice is endeavoring to educate more workers about the victors they have achieved, as well as push for a whole slate of other pro-worker items including, affordable housing, fair policing, equitable transit and more.
“We’re going to continue to build power,” Fast Food Justice Board Member Tsedeye Gebreselassie said. “We have a hard road ahead of us, but because we still live in a progressive city where change is still possible, we are going to organize, and we are going to make change together along with our allies and partners.”
Signed into law last year, as part of a package of bills aimed at reforming New York City’s exploitative fast food industry, the Fast Food Worker Empowerment Bill and its companion measures, has also brought needed improvements to the industry’s chronically oppressive “on-call” scheduling practices that make it impossible for workers to manage their personal lives.
“I couldn’t be happier — two-weeks scheduling has changed my life,” said Josh, a Fast Food Justice member and employee at
According to the Comptroller’s Office, merely establishing a modest $15 an hour minimum wage will put some $1.3 billion into the pockets of New York City’s 65,000 fast food workers.
Fast food kingpins who reaped roughly $200 of billions of dollars in revenue at last count, however, have already filed suit challenging Fast Food Justice’s funding model.
On Wednesday, Stringer lauded the courage of fast food workers in the Fight for $15 movement and remembered how it all began on the streets of New York City in 2012.
“It was a call for fairness, but it did seem like a far off dream,” the comptroller admitted.
Fast Food Justice anticipates having more than 5,000 workers citywide signed up by year’s end. Members contributing $13.50 a month would enable the organization to, indeed, execute a lot of advocacy — but the pressure will be on to achieve tangible results.
The Service Employees International Union [SEIU] spearheaded the original Fight for $15 movement as an attempt to organize the notoriously difficult to organize fast food industry.
As Fast Food Justice’s first official member, Walker said that she is proud of the victories workers in the fast food industry have achieved — but even more proud that ‘fast food workers sparked a global movement to win raises for even more working people.”