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Inside The Fast Food Workers’ Strike In Georgia

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"Inside The Fast Food Workers’ Strike In Georgia"

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Outside an Atlanta Burger King on May 15.

Outside an Atlanta Burger King on May 15.

CREDIT: Rebecca Leber

ATLANTA, GEORGIA — “We can’t survive on $7.25!” Surrounded by fast food chains Long John Silver’s, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s in Atlanta, Georgia, a couple dozen workers chanted that message on Thursday morning, drawing the attention — and a lot of honking — from passing car and truck drivers.

The fast food strikes that first began in New York City in 2012 have spread across the country and worldwide. Atlanta was one of the 150 cities that saw strikes on Thursday to demand a $15 living wage. In Georgia, workers take home the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

atlanta strike 2.jpg

CREDIT: Rebecca Leber

Even though the day began for some at 5:30 a.m., energy was high and the workers optimistic by the time they lined up outside of a Burger King, the final stop of the day. Armando Dukes, a Burger King employee for six years who makes $7.35 an hour, led the crowd by megaphone around the restaurant. Like many, this was Dukes’s first time participating.

By comparison, Antwon Brown is a seasoned striker. He’s worked at Long John Silver’s for seven years and has participated in four or five protests since December. Over that time, Brown received his first ever raise from the company, which brings him to $7.50 an hour. He was excited to participate in the action, cutting the interview short because he wanted to rejoin the crowd. “It gave us a stage to vent and express how we feel and hopefully the right person who’s listening will do something about it,” Brown said. “That’s all we’re trying to do.” He thinks they’ve already made a difference. “They get tired of it,” he said. “It’s making them look bad… They’re hoping we go away.”

Another participant, Angela Clark, has been working for the same Burger King franchise for three years and for the company on and off since 1999. “It feels good to stand up for something you believe in,” she said. A single mother and a grandmother of three, she said it’s difficult to pay rent and buy other necessities on a wage of $7.25 an hour.

The workers realize they are taking a risk. Some told me their managers have been discouraging while one “put up the middle finger.” In Atlanta, there was one case of direct retaliation in December. A Subway worker was fired for walking off the job in December and was offered back pay and her job back only when a lawsuit was threatened.

Eddie Foreman, a McDonald’s worker in Alabama who holds two roles for $7.75 an hour, said one reason he joined today is his two kids. “I don’t want them to make $7.25,” he said. “I don’t want them to make $7.50, $8 because they can’t make it off that. They need to make $15 or above to make it in today’s society.”

See more photos of Thursday’s action in Georgia:

Atlanta workers on strike on May 15.

Atlanta workers on strike on May 15.

CREDIT: Rebecca Leber

burgerkingstrike

CREDIT: Rebecca Leber

photo 3

CREDIT: Rebecca Leber

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