A demonstration by fast-food workers last week in Manhattan. One recent study found that fifty-two per cent of fast-food workers require some form of public assistance.
(The following article is reprinted from the New Yorker. It is quite long but gives a very well-written close up and personal look at the US fast foodworkers campaign through the eyes of one of its worker activists – single mum Arisleyda Tapia.)
By William Finnegan
For the customers, nothing has changed in the big, busy McDonald’s on Broadway at West 181st Street, in Washington Heights. Promotions come and go—during the World Cup, the French-fry package was suddenly not red but decorated with soccer-related “street art,” and, if you held your phone up to the box, it would download an Augmented Reality app that let you kick goals with the flick of a finger. New menu items appear—recently, the Jalapeño Double and the Bacon Clubhouse, or, a while back, the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal. But a McDonald’s is a McDonald’s. This one is open twenty-four hours. It has its regulars, including a panel of older gentlemen who convene at a row of tables near the main door, generally wear guayaberas, and deliberate matters large and small in Spanish. The restaurant doesn’t suffer as much staff turnover as you might think. Mostly the same employees, mostly women, in black uniforms and gold-trimmed black visors, toil and serve and banter with the customers year after year. The longtime manager, Dominga de Jesus, bustles about, wearing a bright-pink shirt and a worried look, barking at her workers, “La linea! La linea! ”
Behind the counter, though, a great deal has changed in the past two years. Among the thirty-five or so non-salaried employees, fourteen, at last count, have thrown in their lot with Fast Food Forward, the New York branch of a growing campaign to unionize fast-food workers. Underneath the lighted images of Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets, back between the deep fryer and the meat freezer, the clamshell grill and the egg station, the order screens and the endless, hospital-like beeping of timers, there have been sharp and difficult debates about the wisdom of demanding better pay and forming a union.