U.S. Fast Food And Retail Workers Go On Strike Over Low Wages
According to reports from The Guardian American fast-food and retail workers are going on strike across the country in protest over low wages. As their employers enjoy record profits, the workers are dealing with safety concerns, working in dangerous conditions, and face sexual harassment and other issues encountered on the job. Billion-dollar companies like McDonald's and the Dollar General are paying their workers an average of $15/hr, while execs and stockholders are showered with millions in bonuses, stock buyback, and salary increases.
The workers have had it, some walking off the job at a North Carolina Dollar General earlier this month! In 2021, Dollar General reported a profit of $3.2bn, and its CEO made more than $16.4m. An astonishing 986 times the pay of the company’s workers! Dollar General employee, Ashley Sierra, says she only gets part-time hours at $11/hr. She said she is barely making ends meet adding, “My weekly paycheck is no more than $200, $260 at the max. I have three children, I cannot survive on $260 a week, it’s just not working. It needs to get upped to at least $15 an hour, the bottom is $15 because we work so hard for so little.”
Therein lies the problem. Most of these jobs are understaffed, require long hours, high stress, and a fast pace, with no benefits. Workers by themselves or with only one of the employees to run an entire store. Sierra points out, that it's dangerous and leaves them vulnerable to situations of theft or robberies. A spokesperson for Dollar General released a statement via email about the walkout, but never addressed the low wages:
“We understand a small number of employees chose to express their personal opinions about the company earlier this week by walking off the job. We respect our employees’ right to engage in protected activities and as is our practice, we plan to listen, and are listening, to their feedback.”
Workers in Los Angeles walked out at a McDonald’s because the restaurant has had plumbing issues for a year. As conditions worsened employees were getting sick breathing in gas caused by sewage. A worker for the fast-food giant, Jasmina Alfaro, explained “It gives me headaches, stomachaches, and nausea, and it’s been happening to my co-workers also.” She continued, “It has become a horrible smell all over the kitchen and store and we’ve noticed there’s water also leaking with disgusting debris.”
Despite these conditions, Alfaro and her co-workers were expected to report to work and were not compensated when they missed after becoming sick. The workers are now demanding the plumbing be fixed before they return to work and also fighting to get worker representation laws passed in California. Alfaro said, “This is the only way we’re going to have a voice that represents us, so we can be listened to and not be ignored. We shouldn’t have to risk our health to make a living.”
Much like Dollar General, a spokesperson for McDonald’s responded to the claims via email:
“This restaurant underwent a recent health inspection and was found to be in good standing. We have already begun repairing a plumbing issue that recently arose at the restaurant and expects it to be resolved shortly.”
Complaints of neglect, being overworked, and being underpaid are similar from workers across the nation at other Fortune 500 companies like Jack in the Box and Wendy's.