Along with thousands of fast-food workers in at least seven cities this week, Naquasia LeGrand decided to walk off her job at KFC for a day and demand a “living wage” of $15 an hour.
Chanting “we can’t survive on seven twenty five” – a reference to the federal minimum wage – Ms. LeGrand marched with hundreds of other workers yesterday in a nation-wide effort to draw attention to what they say is an ever-widening income gap.
New York’s contingent of protesters, some of whom carried signs saying “supersize my pay,” demonstrated all day in front of a number of McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and KFC’s hroughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.
It is a scene playing out in other cities as well: Kansas City fast food and retail workers walked out Tuesday, and Milwaukee workers plan their one-day strike on Thursday. Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis workers have also walked off the job – each asking for a $15-an-hour wage and the ability to unionize without reprisals from their employers.
This week’s strikes cast light on a simmering social movement of media-savvy youth and urban low-wage workers that began with the Occupy Wall Street protests nearly two years ago.
Like the Occupy movement, the walkouts this week arose from a parallel form of community organizing – rather than a hierarchy of leadership from above. Workers have been mobilizing through social media – even as a host of community organizers redouble their commitment to traditional pavement pounding and grassroots gatherings.
Call it Occupy 2.0. Organizations with Twitter-ready names such as “Low Pay Is Not OK” and “Fast Food Forward” have helped galvanize the workers, and hashtags such as “#strikefor15” and “#iamfastfood” have instantly shared pictures of the protests and pin-pointed their locations in real time.
“The Occupy movement created sort of a consciousness, a political space to talk about income inequality, and these workers really relate to the idea of the 99 percent,” says Hilary Klein, director of Make the Road New York, a community advocacy group with offices throughout the city.
“So I think there has been a real upsurge in low-wage organizing in general since then,” continues Ms. Klein, who helped coordinate this week’s protests.
To view the video, click here.