By ZOLA ROSS-GRAY, age 10

A worker at Burger King taking part in the November 29, 2012 fast food workers strike in New York City. Photo: COURTESY OF FAST FOOD FORWARD
A worker at Burger King taking part in the November 29, 2012 fast food workers strike in New York City. Photo: COURTESY OF FAST FOOD FORWARD

What is the minimum income you could live on? Workers at fast food chains have to think about this question every single day. According to the New York Department of Labor, fast food workers in New York City earn on average $8.90 an hour, with some workers earning as little as the federal minimum wage, $7.25.

A group of activists and workers called Fast Food Forward, supported by the Service Employees International Union, has been organizing fast food workers to stand up to company owners. According to Fast Food Forward, “Workers make only 25 percent of what they need to survive in New York City.” Many workers, they reported, cannot afford basics like food, rent and transportation costs.

On November 29th, 2012, more than 200 fast food workers in New York City from McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, Dominos and Papa John’s walked off their jobs to demand better working conditions. They held rallies, demanding that their wages be increased to $15 an hour and that their union be recognized.

This was the first strike ever to happen among the city’s fast food workers. “For so long, a lot of labor and other folks have avoided these industries because they thought they were too low wage, too hard to organize,” said Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change.

McDonalds has seen a 130 percent increase in profits over the past four years. Those profits, though, have not translated into wage increases. Advocates for fast food companies often claim that most fast food workers are teenagers who work to earn extra spending money. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current median age for fast food workers is 28, and for women fast food workers is 32. “It’s not just your teenagers with after-school jobs. It’s mothers, fathers and families,” Westin said.