Workers also file complaints of Fair Workweek Law violations at 10 additional Chipotle stores, nearing half of all Chipotle New York City stores.
New York City—The movement that New York City fast-food workers ignited seven years ago in their “Fight for $15 and a Union” gathered more strength as hundreds of fast food workers and union members held a rally, then marched down 14th to display the strength of their fight for dignity and respect in the workplace.
“My fast food co-workers and I are students putting ourselves through school,” Brianna Augustin, a 22-year-old fast food worker who is five months pregnant, told the crowd at the rally. “Some of us are parents of school-age children. And some of us are expectant mothers worried about the world we are bringing children into. We are from all walks of life and we work in food service to earn incomes to care for ourselves and our families. We stand up today to speak truths about our working conditions because we want a future where our children will not have to deal with the economic injustices that we are facing now.”
More than 80,000 people in New York City, predominantly women of color, work at more than 6,000 fast-food restaurants within city boundaries. McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chipotle, Dominos, KFC, Shake Shack, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and other highly-profitable corporations like them are part of a $200 billion fast-food industry that continues to grow.
“These should be good, full-time, family-sustaining jobs, not poverty wage jobs,” 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said. “A company’s path to profitability should not be in employment practices that chain members of our communities to poverty wage jobs.”
After fast food workers helped raised wages across the nation, including raising New York state minimum wage to $15 an hour, they continued fighting for ways to make their jobs better jobs.
The New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) is currently seeking more than $1 million in remedies from Chipotle for Fair Workweek Law violations at four of its Brooklyn stores but workers say Chipotle continues to violate the access-to-hours of the law. At today’s rally, workers announced they have filed complaints at 10 more Chipotle stores, nearing half of all Chipotle New York City stores that are under investigation for violating the law.
McDonald’s has had to reach settlement with the city on Fair Workweek violations and there are currently open complaints of other violations. Kentucky Fried Chicken, Shake Shack, Domino’s and other fast food operations have either paid money in settlement of violations or are being investigated by the city for ongoing violations.
Bragg pointed out Chipotle keeps telling the media it is cooperating with the city’s investigation.
“Get right with workers and stop committing more and more violations. Fair Workweek Law is in place so workers have a path to full-time hours but Chipotle keeps breaking the law. We need Chipotle to match words to action, stop breaking the law and respect New York workers’ rights,” Bragg said.
Fast-food workers are organizing with 32BJ SEIU, the nation’s largest property service workers union, which helped win landmark improvements on wages and workplace issues like irregular scheduling, unsafe working conditions and wage theft, goals that, at the outset, critics called impossible.
“We, at 32BJ SEIU, are engaged in a fundamental battle to reform an economy that is set up to crush people who do not have the means to climb into the middle class. Fast food workers will you tell that making and serving food is dangerous business and you need to have workers who are happy, well-trained and experienced in their jobs to be able to do it right and management needs to be on board to allow workers to do their job right,” Bragg said.
“But, whether it’s greed or just plain Ignorance, fast food employers continue to fail these dedicated and hard-working New Yorkers,” Bragg, continuing, added. “Instead of treating these hardworking New Yorkers as if they are disposable, fast-food workers deserve dignity, job security and a voice in the workplace. As workers in other sectors—like security officers and airport workers—have done, jobs in the fast food industry can and must be good jobs.”
Fast Food Workers have gained powerful allies in New York City elected officials, including Council Members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
“Thanks to 32BJ’s leadership, New York City has made great progress improving pay for fast-food workers and guaranteeing scheduling rights, but the work continues,” Kallos said. “Now is the time to push forward and demand better, safer, more stable working conditions for our city’s 80,000 fast-food workers,” said Council Member Kallos. “All working Americans deserve to be treated with respect. That is why 32BJ and New York City’s fast-food workers have my unwavering support.”
Diaz said every worker deserves dignity and respect.
“Workers deserve good, full-time, living wage jobs,” he continued. “While raising the minimum wage of fast food workers was a step in the right direction, the work is not yet complete. Unions helped build our city’s middle class–and unions will rebuild our city’s middle class. Fast food workers deserve the right to unionize in order to fight back against corporations that put profit margins over people. I’m proud to be in this fight and stand with the fast food workers of our city. This is about opportunity and fast food workers just want an opportunity to succeed like anyone else.”
“I continue to stand in solidarity with fast food workers, including the employees at Chipotle, and will continue to do so as they fight to get a union. It is not enough to just comply with existing laws—fast food workers deserve benefits and fair pay,” Powers said.
After the rally at 6th Avenue and 13th Street, in a joyous pageantry of drummers, Local 32BJ SEIU colors on banners, shirts, hats, flags and bandanas as fast food workers from all over New York City gather on 6th Avenue and 13th Street for speeches, street theater and singing, the crowd then marched up to 14th Street and east to Irving Place, to the location of another Chipotle store.
Workers in the fast food industry have proven over time that they are determined and resilient.
“Fast-food companies like McDonald’s are operating in our communities,” Jeremy Espinal, a 20-year-old college student who works at Chipotle in Manhattan, said. “And we are giving them our blood, sweat and tears. Our friends and families spend hard-earned money and eat here. I don’t think it is too much to ask that the jobs here be good jobs.”
With all the hard-won improvements, workers are now poised for the next phase of the campaign: winning a union.
With 175,000 members in 11 states, including 85,000 in New York, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country