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Fast food workers fight for wages and unions

Missouri and Kansas fast-food workers may be interested in the unionization efforts of fast-food workers and new wage laws in other parts of the country. Workers in New York fast-food restaurants recently held a one day strike to publicize their efforts to unionize and obtain higher wages, more certain schedules, and enhanced benefits.

In December, 2012, New York passed a law that would raise the state minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour by 2015. Some fast-food workers say that raise isn't enough. The Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement said in a 2010 study that a single New Yorker with no dependents would need to earn $12.56 per hour to live without relying on government subsidies. The number goes up to $23.39 per hour if the worker has a child to support.

The minimum wage legislation has had other ramifications as well. The bill included substantial subsidies for companies that hire teenagers. Many labor experts worry that these subsidies will encourage companies to push out adult workers in favor of employment of minors. Workers have also struggled with uncertain schedules and decreasing hours. Many hourly minimum wage workers have taken second jobs to supplement their fast-food income. However, maintaining both jobs becomes difficult when the fast-food employer's schedule is unpredictable.

Many fast-food workers have turned to unions improve conditions, but that effort has also faced resistance from employers. Several Burger King employees recently signed a petition with the Fast Food Forward campaign, which is supported by New York Communities for Change and Service Employees International Union. The petition demanded a raise to $15 per hour. It also called for union recognition for the workers. The workers were subsequently fired for signing the petition.

It is illegal to fire workers for union activity. In this instance, the workers were ultimately reinstated to their positions after receiving help from union organizers and city leaders. However, the rights, wages, and benefits of minimum wage workers is becoming a national issue and could soon spread to Missouri and Kansas. More workers could face similar resistance and pressure in their fight improved compensation. An attorney with experience in labor laws and union issues can help workers defend their rights.

Source: The Atlantic, "The McJobs Strike Back: Will Fast-Food Workers Ever Get A Living Wage?," Sarah Jaffe, April 4, 2013

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