Fast Food Strike
Employees of a Chicago sandwich chain received an email Sunday night notifying them of their termination, just days before Christmas.
Colorado-based Snarf’s Sub Shop said it was closing its River North location beginning Monday for an “unknown period of time” for remodeling, and that 20 of its employees would be fired the same day.
According to Mercury News, the workers were told their severance paychecks would be given to them on the Friday after Christmas and said to “keep an eye out for the grand opening of the new store.”
"We really regret our employees were given last-minute notice, but they were aware of the loss of business during the past year," Jill Preston, Snarf's director of marketing, said in a phone call to The Huffington Post.
Preston says the store will undergo a redesign as a burger joint like one of their Colorado locations. She also says the company couldn’t keep its employees or temporarily lay them off since a date for the re-opening wasn’t set.
Preston said the closing comes “at a really bad time” but “our location there is suffering” because of the increase in company cafeterias in the building and competition from food trucks close by.
"It was prudent to shut down [on Dec. 23] because we don't have a lot of business during that time," Preston said. The company's second location in the Chicago Loop buisiness district is unaffected.
The closures and firings come three weeks after Snarf’s employees joined a nationwide strike by fast food workers demanding higher wages and better benefits, according to Chicago Grid, which obtained the email.
Preston told the Grid that the termination did not have any relation to the strike.
“This is something we've had planned for awhile,” Preston said of the remodel that employees were not informed of before the emails were sent Sunday.
Worker’s Organizing Committee of Chicago and supporters came together outside of the closed restaurant, calling for the workers to get severance pay or their jobs back.
Preston says the workers should reapply for their old jobs as soon as the new restaurant is up and running.
At some point during the past year, you may have popped into your favorite fast food joint only to find that you couldn’t get your Big Mac or Finger Lickin’ Good Big Bucket because the people who work at the place were on strike.
If you wondered why — shouldn’t they just be grateful to have a job in today’s tough economy — a PBS documentary on one New York fast food employee may have some answers for you.
Shenita Simon is 25 years old and holds a position of responsibility at a Brooklyn Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. She is a shift supervisor, working full time, in charge of other employees and required to help out in any area of the restaurant where she’s needed, whether it’s operating the cash register and taking customer orders or actually frying the food.
She is also the breadwinner in a household of seven. He husband was recently laid off from his job. Their three children as well as Simon’s mother and brother all live under the same roof.
Simon (pictured) earns a wage of $8 per hour. After taxes, she takes home about $270 per week. The federally recognized poverty line for a family of seven is $35,000 per year. Simon’s pay would be the equivalent of about half that, or a somewhat less.
A recent study showed that 52 percent of fast food workers must rely on some form of public assistance just to make ends meet, barely. In other words, the government subsidizes the fast food industry’s labor costs — to the tune of $7 billion per year.
The 10 largest fast food companies are responsible for more than half of that total, though those same 10 corporations made a total of $7.4 billion in 2012 profits and paid out $7.7 billion to shareholders.
Among the most voracious recipients of the government subsidies, McDonald’s led the way with its employees needing $1.2 billion in public aid.
Yum! Brands comes next. The parent company of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Simon’s employer, Kentucky Fried Chicken, caused the government to pay out $648 million to its employees.
That’s something to remember next time you bite into a delicious Whopper. The government is paying for your privilege of eating it.
Striking fast food workers this year want the fast food chains to raise their basic wage to $15 per hour.
Simon is also part of the 87 percent of the fast food workforce who receive no benefits from their employer, another way the fast food chains pinch pennies on labor costs..
“No vacation, no benefits, no sick days, no personal days. That's luxury. That's unheard of now,” she told PBS.
Simon allowed PBS to shadow her, recording her expenses for a week. They found her biggest expense was food, which on one $53.57 trip to the grocery store included five boxes of macaroni and cheese, and three $5 bags of 99-cent-per-pound chicken. She also must pay $6 to buy special milk for her daughter who is allergic to dairy.
Her family receives about $200 per month from the government’s WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program, but they no longer receive food stamps. While PBS cameras followed her, Simon spent five hours waiting in line on her day off to reapply.
She spent $45.35 on toiletries for the whole family and about $40 on baby supplies while PBS tracked her. That left three bucks and change in her bank account.
To critics who say that she should be happy to just have a job, Simon replies, “it's easy looking from outside in and saying, oh, yes, with that money, I will be able to build mountains. But let me see you survive. I want to see anyone. I challenge you, do it.”
SOURCES: PBS, CNN News Wire, Forbes
A 21-year-old community college student in Seattle was fired from his job at a Subway sandwich shop franchise because, he says the owner told him, he gave a cookie to a child for free — even though he often gave cookies to kids and the owner praised him for it.
But Carlos Hernandez suspects that he got the axe for another reason. The Honduras native, who resides legally in the United States on a green card, helped organize his fellow fast-food workers to go on strike, twice.
Starting last November, fast food workers nationwide have been staging short strikes to protest low wages paid by the industry as well as the often poor working conditions. The movement peaked with a 58-city strike on August 29, targeting a number of fast food chains including Subway, as well as McDonald’s and the coffee chain Starbucks among others.
The owner of the Seattle Subway franchise where Hernandez (pictured) worked told Seattle TV station KIRO that the employee’s labor activities had nothing to do with his dismissal. It was only the free cookie.
“He worked for me two months after the first strike, and the second strike he worked a week and a half," said franchise owner Hasan Zeer. "It's nothing to do with that. All my employees who went on strike are still working with me."
Hernandez admits giving away the cookie. He said that he had done it before, paying for the cookies with money from a tip jar. At the time, Hernandez said, Zeer told him, “'Wow, you are very good worker, you give very good customer service.'"
Single Subway cookies go for less than one dollar. Hernandez admits that on the occasion he was fired, he did not reimburse the store for the cost of the cookie simply because the restaurant was extremely busy at the time.
Hernandez said that when he told the store manager in duty when he was fired that he suspected the dismissal was related to his labor activities, the manager told him, “‘Yes, you shouldn’t be against us.’”
Working Washington, an advocacy group for fas food workers, has filed a complaint against Zeer and Subway. Attorneys expect a resolution by the end of October.
Hernandez was also fired from a Chipotle fast food restaurant in Seattle, he says, when he pushed for better worker pay. At the time, he says, he was told he was canned for a bad attitude.
SOURCES: Salon.com, KIRO TV
Rep. Markwayne Mullin Advises Against Minimum Wage Hike: ‘You Guys Wanna Pay $20 for a Hamburger?’ (Video)
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., believes increasing minimum wage so that it has the buying power it had in 1968 would make fast food quadruple in price.
“You guys want to pay $20 for a hamburger at McDonald’s?” Mullin asked a town hall meeting in Oklahoma last Thursday.
“The people who are wanting to do this, they don’t understand. You got to pass it on,” Mullin told his constituents. “If you wanna increase it, that’s great, but what you’re gonna do is punish everybody along the way."
What Mullin failed to understand is that increasing minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 an hour doesn’t come close to matching the buying power of minimum wage 45 years ago.
According to ThinkProgress, Mullin’s math on pricing is also shoddy. A 38 percent increase in wages would never force a company to quadruple its prices. A Big Mac is currently $4.56.
Mullin doesn’t seem to realize McDonald’s charges what the market will bear, not the cost of labor, according to Forbes. The global corporation does well in Australia, where minimum wage is $14.50 an hour. Australians are paying 6 cents more for a Big Mac than Americans.
Minimum wage workers across the U.S. are striking for better pay, while law-wage jobs have the greatest growth. According to ThinkProgress, a $10 minimum wage would get 6 million Americans out of poverty.
At the end of the meeting, someone suggests that people who support a minimum wage increase ever worked in “industry,” meaning, apparently, manual labor out on the farm. Mullin jokes that he doubts anyone who supports a minimum wage increase “ever got poop on their shoe.”
During another town hall meeting last week, Mullin said he suspected Oklahomans of food stamp fraud because he saw a couple at a nice grocery store who looked lean and fit.
According to a new study conducted by a University of Kansas scholar, doubling the salaries of McDonald’s employees—from the CEO to the company’s minimum wage workers—would only require the fast food giant to raise the price of the Big Mac by 68 cents. As such, the company would not have to sacrifice the low prices upon which it thrives.
As things currently stand, a McDonald’s minimum wage employee makes $7.25 per hour. McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson made $8.75 million last year. According to the report, if the minimum wage employee’s salary were to be raised to $15 per hour and Thompson’s salary to $17.5 million annually, the Big Mac would have to go from the current $3.99 to $4.67 and dollar menu items from $1 to $1.17. Consumers would experience only a minimal difference, while the lives of the company’s employees would largely improve.
The report cited the McDonald’s 2012 annual report in stating that the fast food chain spends only 17.1 percent of its revenue on salaries and benefits. McDonald’s executives could keep this ratio exactly the same and still double all employee salaries with a minimal increase in product prices.
The study was released on the heels of a country-spanning fast food workers strike seeking a $15 per hour minimum wage base. Advocates of the strike argue that the current minimum wage is simply not enough to get by in today’s economy. McDonald’s itself recognizes that fact, as a recent budget report released by the company suggested to workers that they acquire a second job and cut expenditures on heating as a means of making a workable living.
On Thursday in New York City, about 400 workers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Yum! Brands are striking in a bid to call for higher wages.
The employees are seeking a pay raise to $15 an hour and want to be able to form a union. Currently the minimum wage in New York is $7.25 an hour.
“By far, it will be one of the biggest actions that fast-food workers have taken in this country,” said Jonathan Westin, the executive director of advocacy group and organizer New York Communities for Change.
A similar strike was held in November, and organizers are hoping that some restaurants will be forced to close today because they will be missing so many employees. About 60 restaurants, including Burger King, Domino’s Pizza and Papa John’s, are expected to be affected.
“At several of the stores we will have the majority of the workforce in the stores out on strike,” Westin said. “It will be difficult for businesses to continue as usual.”
“I’m fed up and I’m asking for $15 an hour and to create a union without intimidation,” said Tabitha Verges, 29, who has worked at a Burger King in Harlem as a cook and cashier for about four years. “I can barely get by. I borrow from people to pay my bills. I’m trying really hard not to get on welfare.”
Verges was one of the workers to walk off the job on Thursday, Bloomberg reports.
“Employees are paid competitive wages and have access to a range of benefits to meet their individual needs,” McDonald’s spokeswoman Heather Oldani said in an e-mailed statement. She added that most McDonald’s stores are owned and operated by independent business people.
Last month New York lawmakers passed a measure that included raising the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour over three years.