ROCHESTER (WXXI) - Fast food workers in upstate New York joined nationwide Labor Day strikes, demanding union rights and a $15 minimum wage. Outside the McDonald's on Rochester's Monroe Avenue, fast food workers and labor supporters gathered in solidarity with the movement.
Fast food workers won a significant victory three years ago, when it was announced New York State would incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021, but some say this needs to happen sooner.
A salary at $15 an hour averages out to about $30,000 if workers get 40 hours a week, another issue David Holton says is a problem. He recently quit his fast food job after finding the opportunity for higher pay.
“The schedule was a huge problem for me, because there was no regularity in my weeks, and I never felt like I was making as much money as I deserved for the work I did."
Holton said the increase would benefit more than just the worker.
"If you have people who work and live in the communities having more money, they go out and spend more money in the communities, which helps all business owners."
The current fast food wage is $10.75.
Quinton Cox had been working at a McDonald’s until about two months ago; he said the $15 wage would make life a lot easier.
"You have single mothers working here making $10, I don’t think that’s enough for anybody, to make a living in New York especially."
He said people don’t realize what some fast food workers endure during their shifts, Cox worked on the grill.
"It’s pretty tough especially what they go through back there. Burning their hands, working with food so, I think they deserve it, especially the grill workers."
Colin O'Malley is with MetroJustice who organized the Rochester rally. He says many fast food restaurants have "aggressive" campaigns to deter workers from unionizing.
"What we really want is for fast food workers to have the right nationwide to join into a mass union to improve work conditions and pay in some of the most profitable companies in the country."
Since the Fight for $15 campaign launched in 2012, it has spurred wage hikes totaling more than $62 billion for 22 million underpaid workers including more than 10 million who are on their way to $15 an hour.