They work for some of the biggest businesses in the United States, yet they are among the country's lowest-paid workers.
On Thursday, fast-food workers staged walkouts at McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell and other restaurants in New York City to call attention to their plight. Organizers scheduled the job actions to commemorate the day Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 45 years ago in Memphis, where he was supporting a strike by sanitation workers.
"It's not enough," Elba Godoy, a crew member at a McDonald's just a few blocks from Times Square, said of her $7.25-per-hour minimum wage, which helps support her extended family of seven. "They don't like [that we're out here], but we have to do it. We cannot survive on $7.25."
Godoy and her colleagues are seeking a raise to $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. The walkout is part of a national movement by low-wage workers to raise wages and gain rights.
The National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for a higher minimum wage, says the purchasing power of the minimum wage is 30 percent lower today than it was in 1968. It has documented, since the start of the recession, a growth in low-wage jobs and the disappearance of jobs that it calls "mid-wage." Specifically, NELP finds:
Lower-wage occupations constituted 21 percent of recession losses, but 58 percent of recovery growth;
Mid-wage occupations constituted 60 percent of recession losses, but only 22 percent of recovery growth;
Higher-wage occupations constituted 19 percent of recession job losses, and 20 percent of recovery growth.
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