DALLAS — A series of rolling strikes against the nation’s fast-food industry – one-day walkouts that have attracted hundreds of workers in New York and Detroit – is scheduled to move south Thursday.
In the strikes, which are making their way into the South for the first time, workers and their backers are pushing for a “living wage” of at least $15 an hour.
Organizers will stage protests in 45 cities, from Dallas to Tampa, Fla., to Raleigh and Memphis. Industry groups in South Carolina said they did not know of any specific protests planned in Columbia or other places in the state. The pre-Labor Day job action will take place the day after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Many workers in fast food, called “quick serve” in the trade, earn minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour federally and many states.
Organizers said the Dallas turnout might be small since the movement is new to Texas. But they see it as significant that workers here contacted organizers asking to participate.
“It’s significant that people in a city like Dallas are organizing and taking the pretty significant step of joining in the national day of action,” said Ginny Goldman, executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, which advocates for low- and moderate-wage workers.
“Many consider (Texas) to be the low-wage capital of the country, where you have more minimum-wage workers than any other state.
“People were seeking out how they could get involved,” she said.
In the Dallas area, workers who are employed at chains including McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Jack in the Box are expected to walk off the job for one day. Organizers declined to reveal the location of the picketing and rallies until just before the strike begins.
The strikes, which launched in New York City last November and spread to the Midwest, are being run by local labor-community-clergy alliances.
The Service Employees International Union is providing financial and technical support to the campaigns and is helping train organizers.
Efforts were unsuccessful Wednesday to reach that organization to determine whether protests would be held in South Carolina. But a spokeswoman for the South Carolina chapter of the AFL-CIO and a spokesman for the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association said they knew of no planned protests in the state.
Restaurant operators, many of whom are franchisees, say restaurant margins are too thin to accommodate a big increase in costs – whether it’s substantially higher wages or health care costs.
“A majority of minimum-wage restaurant workers are just beginning their professional lives,” Richie Jackson, chief executive of the Texas Restaurant Association, said. “Almost half of these workers are teenagers, and 70 percent are under the age of 25.”
The strikes are meant to focus attention on workers like 45-year-old Darletha Jones, who has worked almost exclusively since September 1998 for Wendy’s.
A cashier and cook who makes $8.75 an hour, Jones said she needs help from the Section 8 government housing program to pay the rent on her Dallas home.
Jones took Thursday off to participate in the job action. She said she doesn’t want to strike but “I want to make more money. … I’ve got to pay bills.”
Victoria Price, 25, is paid $7.80 an hour at McDonald’s, where she said she is a shift manager.
The mother of two said she uses food stamps to help stretch her grocery dollars and lives with a family member to cut expenses.
She said she’s planning to participate in the strike because “I have a voice.”
“I work hard. I open the store; I close the store. I deserve to be paid for what I do,” she said.
“Though I do have my job, it’s still not enough for me and my two kids,” she said, choking back tears.