Fast Food Workers Strike in 100 Cities

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Employees and supporters demonstrate outside of a Wendy's fast-food restaurant to demand higher pay and the right to form a union on July 29, 2013 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

In 2012, the seven largest fast food corporations—including McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell—made $7.4 billion in profits. Their employees earned an average of $8.69, barely a dollar more than minimum wage.

Today, fast food workers in 100 cities are striking for a $15 an hour wage and the right to form a union without interference.

It's a movement that's been growing for over a year. In November 2012, more than 200 fast food workers protested at more than 20 restaurants in New York City. It was the first mass walkout in the history of the nation's fast food industry.

Today The Takeaway hears from two fast food workers about what it's like working in the industry.

Naquasia LeGrand is a cashier at KFC who earns just $7.70 an hour. And Eduardo Shoy is a delivery man for KFC and Pizza Hut, as well as a forklift operator at JFK airport.

Angelo Amador is the Vice President of Workforce and Labor Policy at the National Restaurant Association. He is on the opposite side of the debate, opposing the wage hike. 

In 2012....the 7 largest fast food know the ones...McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell...made 7.4 BILLION dollars in profits....
Their employees...earned an average of 8 dollars and 69 cents....barely a dollar more than minimum wage... food workers in 100 cities are a call for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without interference....
It's a movement that's been growing for over a year...In November 2012, more than 200 fast food workers protested at more than 20 restaurants in New York City. It was the first mass walkout in the history of the nation's fast food industry....
Joining me now is Angelo, Amador, Vice President of Workforce and Labor Policy at the National Restaurant Association. They are opposed to the wage hike.
Now we will hear from two fast food workers on what it's like working in the industry. Naquasia LeGrand is a cashier at KFC...she's making just 7 dollars and 70 cents an hour...and has received only a 20 cent raise in the two years she's been working there...She joins us here in the studio following a strike this morning at a midtown McDonald'


Angelo Amador, Naquasia LeGrand and Eduardo Shoy

Produced by:

Allie Ferguson and Ellen Frankman


T.J. Raphael

Comments [38]

Brendan from Montana

Naquasia is 21 years old, and all ready complaining how she is owed something. How about working hard and moving up through the ranks to get more through performance, instead of wining. All you do is make it harder on the rest of us who want to be judged on our abilities and skills. Think about who you are harming before you open your mouth. Companies don't pay taxes, they get passed through to the end user. Companies don't pay for increases in salaries or benefits, they get passed through to the end user. I know while I can explain it to you, I can't understand it for you. That takes an education and common sense!

Jan. 17 2014 03:10 PM
Dave Walker from Philadelphia, PA

As I read this a few things need to be addressed.

First and foremost: we cannot sustain an economy where the entry level jobs do not pay enough to live on. *Period*
Are these jobs for people with no skills or training: yes. Do these people not deserve to make ends live working, often very hard, for 40 hours a week: Yes.
Are these jobs often taken by dependents (teenagers etc..:)Sometimes. BUT they are also taken by adults with responsibilities. The "Teenagers and Part Time Jobs" is a canard that does not change the fact that labor has value.
A task that truly needs doing needs pay enough to sustain an person, even if at the level of poverty.

Raising (essentially doubling) the minimum wage to $15? Right now that would be a terrible seismic blow to the economy. It has to be done, but better minds than mine can figure out a timetable that is balanced between the needs of those who work and those who employ them.

As to Mr. Hockenberry's questioning of Mr. Amador: Mr. Amador was very evasive about the crisis that workers face, and repeated the same points over and over about "jobs lost" and "businesses not being able to operate".
Mr. Hockenberry only tried to get some authentic information out of the interview.

Dec. 06 2013 02:46 PM
Sharon from Charlotte, NC

I note that as I registered to comment here we are requested to be "civil". Is that not also a requirement for John Hockenberry? He made absolutely no effort to hide his contempt for Mr. Amador, who promptly and civilly (and with a bit of humor) answered all questions despite the host's rudeness. Judging from this interview, Hockenberry apparently has had very little education in economics and is woefully ignorant about who owns and runs most fast food restaurants (the franchisees). John, don't you owe it to your listeners to be at least minimally familiar with the subject are discussing?

Dec. 05 2013 08:11 PM
Sara from Oakland

Whoa nelly ! There is no need to polarize the issue needlessly. Raise the minimum wage incrementally, promote profit sharing, offer job training skills to upgrade the entry level workforce, convert the rising # of 'disabled'to a spectrum of disability so that some can be given useful tasks that fit their capacity. Currently, disability claims are replacing unemployment claims as many folks with limited capacity & skill feel genuinely 'disabled' from getting a job. In a sense, anyone who is not computer literate IS disabled !

It kills rational discourse to allow $15/hr to be the question.

Dec. 05 2013 04:03 PM
David from California

As many have pointed out here already, these jobs are the bottom of the barrel -- low skill/no skill entry-level jobs that almost anyone can be trained to do. And they pay accordingly.

Instead of trying to put lipstick on a pig, why don't we help these workers get out of these horrible jobs through education and vocational training? Instead of throwing an extra $7 an hour at them, make that same money an education credit: that's $14,500 a year which is darn near an associates degree or a one year vocational program that will give them marketable skills and double their income. For example, medical and dental assistants start their careers at $15 an hour/$31,000 a year after completing one year programs.

Dec. 05 2013 03:51 PM
Tony Bennett from New York City

I the fast food business model is designed to support high employee turnover. They are designed to burn one employee out while training a new employee. High turnover equals no raises. The fast food industry cannot change. When we let our local resturants go out of busines so we could eat 'Soylent Brown' we the people became part of the problem. You'll never get water from a rock, better to raise the national minimum wage, than to go after a single sector. If we ditch the fast food industry we'll recoup the savings by not having our tax dollars pay for the heart disease & diabetes medication for half the nation.

Dec. 05 2013 03:47 PM

How these two workers expect to get money from corporate when corporate doesn't own their stores is interesting. I also find it interesting that the Queens KFC shut down because it wasn't making money. I wonder how 15 an hour will affect their stores?

Dec. 05 2013 03:29 PM

All these “fixes” for the 99% are pointless because they do not address the fundamental problem. Look up “Quantitative Easing” on WIKI. The first sentences should say that it’s used to increase money supply. But in our case it’s also a question of if the banks are lending that money.

The QEs drove inflation faster in China and Brazil than in the US which shows how the debt is destroying the internal money supply. This effect is the proof in the pudding that our borrowing is now hurting more than it helps.

Increasing money supply by reducing the deficit and debt would go a long way. Increased money supply is associated with increasing labor demand.

Increased labor demand is associated with higher wages which is what helps drive inflation thus the connection between printing money and inflation. Bernanke is simply keeping up the money supply to adjust for the mad borrowing of Congress. I say this as a Libertarian that the Fed is doing the right thing.

The other “fixes” do nothing to fix the underlying problem of low wages. Taking money from the CEO will only create a few jobs just before they’re destroyed. It’s a tactic that will buy the politicians more time to line their pockets.

Increasing minimum wage without increase the money supply appropriately, will literally destroy jobs by moving the money from new jobs or layoff to those that already have jobs. That’s why it’s call a job killer. It does not fix the underlying problem and simply redirects the current money supply. It will hurt those more that in the worst situations already.

Dec. 05 2013 03:17 PM
DW Walker from Belmont, MA

Our minimum wage should give people working full time an income at least twice the 'poverty level' the area they live in. $15/hour sounds like a good place to start!

Stagnant wages and lack of civic responsibility to include all citizens in considerations for making a living with dignity is appalling. Last year a member of my family worked for AmeriCorps. Part of the compensation package was 'food stamp' benefits. While the congress gives themselves increasing compensation and benefits we fund programs that offer wages below the poverty line?

In the profit making sector.... in the mid 1990s I worked temp jobs in a career transition. Wages ranged from $12-$15 hour, my rent was around $600/month. Now, nearly 20 years later 'placement' agencies providing me with temp work offer me $12-$15 and hour. My rent is $1700; I've looked for less expensive housing and it would be very difficult without relocation. The problem of stagnant wages is across all sectors and the profit makers know that there is someone desperate enough to work for minimum wages. And we wonder why out social safety nets are so stretched!

Dec. 05 2013 03:00 PM
J.Means from St. Marys GA

The host, when asking one of the guests how she felt about the charge by critics of the protest that the protesters were not all, or not largely, restaurant workers but union members STUDIOUSLY avoided mentioning that many were paid to protest. Nice withhold of pertinent information by the host to shape the story & possibly manipulate the response.


Dec. 05 2013 02:42 PM
Mike from Portland

Some say a higher minimum wage would reduce jobs. The reply is that 'no, that won't happen'.

But it looks to me like there is already job reduction. We have high unemployment now. Productivity has increased because, I think, labor costs so much that bosses have to get more work from less people. Automation/robots are steadily increasing.

The interviewee from KFC said it: she took a 2nd job at another KFC, but it was closed because it didn't "make no money".

Dec. 05 2013 01:59 PM
Barry P. from Athens GAl

Did I hear right? We're you trying to pin growing income disparity on Pres. Obama? It's a trend decades in the making, not something that happened over the last 5 years. In fact, Obama's policies, esp. ACA quite directly address the gap by lowering costs and preventing many personal bankruptcies.

Dec. 05 2013 01:50 PM

Here is a link to a Wall Street Journal editorial for today, December 5, 2013. You don't have to agree with it; I expect that most of public radio's self-selected liberal audience will reject it.

What one cannot dispute is that the WSJ editorial is an intelligent, well-written, informative assertion of the position against this White House's current advocacy for a minimum wage increase. (Again; you don't have to agree with the Journal's position if you don't like it.) And as such, the Journal editorial is a viewpoint that is virtually never given equal treatment on public radio.

Dec. 05 2013 01:47 PM
M. Khan from Dallas, Texas

Increasing minimum wage for the cause of decent living is NOT the solution. Increasing minimum wage or any wage for that matter will increase the cost of product and services for the very same work force. Our corporations have already fled the US to the land of cheap labor and tax heavens.

The real way to make earning really worth for the people is to control inflation. Inflation has forced people to work two jobs and they still can’t make it. Sometimes everyone in the family is working to make decent living. They are force to borrow from “pay day lenders” to meet their financial obligations. The very first step is to stop Federal Reserve from printing money under fancy terms like Quantitative Easing. Where is the $85 billion per month going? Devaluing the dollar and increasing the cost of energy which in turn increasing the cost (inflation) for everything else and this is the game being played. Why most economists totally ignore inflationary side of the equation when it comes to wages?

How about a new goal for these pundits in finance and economy; lets decrease the minimum wage to say $1 per hour and people on this wage after paying all their cost of living still end up saving 40% of their income. I like to see economist and finance majors to design a system around this requirement. If they can’t they are part of the corrupt system.

The people on minimum wage only feel the effect of inflation and not the cause. Higher inflation helps the lending industry who will be more than willing to lend to these people to close the gap between the decent living and inflated cost of living. Why your program and every program has totally ignored this aspect? Let's stop giving false hope to the minimum wage workers.

Dec. 05 2013 01:29 PM

The fellow that mentioned the price of fast food will cost more if the minimum wage is increased is dead wrong.
Apparently he has never had burger at a Red Robin fast food franchise? Burgers at Red Robin start at about $8.00 but can go as high as $20.00 with a drink. All Red Robin employees earn a minimum wage.
Show me a minimum wage worker at weeks end that can afford to purchase a ticket at a: Sea Hawk game, a basketball game, a classical concert, a rock concert, or just about any other event in Seattle or the rest of the nation and I will show you a thief. There is no way in hell at months end after one's rent, utilities and food are paid is there extra money for a minimum wage family to afford extra curricula activities unless the family goes outside their overpriced apartment to view signs advertising what one could have if he or she earned a decent wage. Corporate America will not collapse if a new minimum wage standard is increased. The heart of the problem is this: Million dollar pay checks and end of year bonuses for greedy CEOs of any company in America
(fast food franchises included) are based on how much CEOs and their companies are able to squeeze from their workers whom don't even have health insurance.

Dec. 05 2013 01:00 PM
Jeff from St. Louis

No offense but there is no way you can pay these people 15 an hour. Everyone else has to go to school or get training/experience to earn better pay but these people think they can skip that part and just get the higher pay. Why? Because they deserve it? Deserve it how?? The fast food industry is for younger workers earning money while in school or to make ends meet while they better themselves. They think because they made bad decisions, live outside thier means, or started families without any long term plans that business owners owe them more. We are paid based on our skill and the amount of people that can perform the job at hand , aka demand for the skillset. If we reward uneducated, unskilled, inexperienced workers with wages that skilled, educated, and experienced workers earn, then there will be no incentive to better yourself. This country has begun an offensive attack on successful motivated people for wanting an above average life and working thier tails off to get there.

Stop acting lazy and entitled to what's not yours. If you want something, go earn it.

Dec. 05 2013 01:00 PM
Mark from Orlando, Florida

It's not about the minimum wage; it'sabout the ratio between the highest paid earner and the lowest paid earner. For example, Sweden has a bill that would cap the highest paid to 12x the lowest paid. Start with that in mind and draft a bill that would compensate for benefits, so companies don't have an incentive to have many part time workers.

Dec. 05 2013 12:49 PM
Janet Woltman from San Antonio

From a totally different view - don't we want the people preparing our FOOD to be healthy? Income equality leads to poor health and that will lead to increased incidents of food-borne illness. I'm NOT talking about a worker licking taco shells - I'm talking about a poor working in fear of missing a day of wages and arriving to the fast food restaurant with a communicable disease. I'm a food safety specialist. I see it all the time.

Dec. 05 2013 12:44 PM
Janet Woltman from San Antonio

From a totally different view - don't we want the people preparing our FOOD to be healthy? Income equality leads to poor health and that will lead to increased incidents of food-borne illness. I'm NOT talking about a worker licking taco shells - I'm talking about a poor working in fear of missing a day of wages and arriving to the fast food restaurant with a communicable disease. I'm a food safety specialist. I see it all the time.

Dec. 05 2013 12:41 PM
JC from Texas

I make significantly more than minimum wage but with the cost of living getting worse $15 seems a good starting point. The expense to business will initially be tough but those people will be doubling their income, surviving and possibly investing back into the economy. This will slowly help rebuild the vanishing middle class. Someone commented on price increases in fast food but that now puts fast food at a closer price option to healthier food choices.

Dec. 05 2013 12:35 PM
Dane from Portland

The business model needs to change to one that doesn't rely on workers to subsidize the cost of the product to drive up consumption.

Dec. 05 2013 12:33 PM
L Sawyer from Portland Or.

As a veteran of the food and customer service industry, I was "forced" to leave in search of a living wage. I was one of the people who TRULY LOVED working in high end of the industry (fine dining and knowledge intensive customer service) yet was never able to afford the kind of services I provided. With that in mind, I have 2 points to raise:
1. If people want GOOD QUALITY and KNOWLEDGABLE customer service, it requires a skill-set that not all people have, and DEMANDS a desire to continue acquiring expertise by the workers. The wages offered in retail and food service drive talent and skill to other industries.
2. I am sick of hearing about how increasing wages will drive the costs up to a point of breaking the industry or market. At a time when the wages are stagnate and corporate profits are soaring why is it considered VERBOTEN to suggest more moderate profit margins AND living wages?

Dec. 05 2013 12:31 PM
K C amzn from Pacific City, Or.

In order to make the equation of poverty and minimum wage jobs a reality for those listeners that have arguments like the labor board guy, "jobs will go away, these are jobs for teens not adults, we all want more but we all can't have everything we want, blahblahblah" you NEED to break it down for your listeners.
What is the net wage for minimum wage workers VS the net profits of those companies employing them? How would an increase to a 15 dollars an hour wage, impact meet profits WITHOUT passing the increase in to the customer? How would an increase in wage impact public assistance numbers?
The argument that the cost must be passed on to the consumer without asking the multi-billion dollar companies to step up and get their employees of of public asst, ignores the corporate responsibility to their employees.

Dec. 05 2013 12:31 PM

So we give corporations tax breaks as a "gift" for setting up shop and then we give their underpaid workers taxpayer-funded benefits just so they have enough money to support their families? It sure doesn't look like the workers here are the lazy, system-scamming culprits here.

Dec. 05 2013 12:23 PM
Theresa from Bucks County, PA

The nation should reconsider our dependence on fast food. It is killing our health for one thing. The Takeaway asks if keeping a low minimum wage is a federal subsidy of these restaurants. I think raising the minimum wage would be subsidizing them just as much as it would reduce the drive to move on to better jobs. The longer we enable these places to be desirable jobs or eating establishments, the longer we drive our nation's health into the grave.

Dec. 05 2013 12:18 PM
Mari Vega from Dallas

Yes, the fact that such a high percentage of the workforce of mega corps (fast food and retail) are on food stamps and other assistance, DOES represent a massive public subsidy --a net loss to the public and a net gain to the megacorps' stockholders.

Dec. 05 2013 12:16 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I am pretty sure that when minimum wage started, you'd be able to a afford a dumpy apartment in the bad part of town and a cheap cut of meat.

I think many Americans would now see an affordable dumpy apartment and a cheap cut of meat as an upwardly mobile advancement over what they have.

Could someone double check me on that...Can we get Freakonomics involved?

Dec. 05 2013 11:55 AM
John from Boston

Let me see if I understand this....... McDonald's, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, et al hire illegal alien workers (and don't tell me this is not true, I see it every time I go to one of these places, which is not often anymore, since it is almost impossible to communicate with the workers there) and pay them lousy wages. These were formerly jobs that were taken by US citizens, basically high school students and people who did not go to college, but they have become sorry excuses for careers for our "guests" from Mexico and elsewhere. So now we are being asked to pay these illegals $15/hour??? Since when do illegal aliens have collective bargaining rights? What I would like to hear first is an honest estimate of the number of illegal aliens in this and related industries like restaurants and hotels and the like, and some explanation of why these businesses have been allowed to employ illegals like this, and what the cost is to the general taxpayer of having all these illegals here. The food is terrible for your health. The work is dead-end, low-skilled, brain-dead drudgery. Why is the US creating jobs like this in the first place, and letting impoverished peasants from Mexico and bovine Gujaratis take them? Get rid of these companies, these worthless jobs and the illegals that are staffing them, and start creating middle class jobs at middle class wages for US CITIZENS for a change.

Now we see what Obama's priorities are, that is for sure. Soak the middle class to help the illegals.

Dec. 05 2013 11:18 AM
molly katchpole from Brooklyn

@RJ from Brooklyn - So, are you mad that they're finally paying attention, or...? I'm 100% on your side, I just don't understand why you're being so flippant.

Dec. 05 2013 10:22 AM
Solarfinder from usa

I have a hard time looking at doubling the income of a low skilled job. If they get 15 an hour, they are going to make more than higher skilled computer, electrical, plumbers, etc. When I go to various fast food restaurants and as a service industry, most employees are very rude. I believe that a performance based rate could be implemented so that those that earn it can earn more.

Our society has become entitled and in this case, doubling ones salary is simply unobtainable. Let's offer these people training programs to help in their career paths. I would like to help those that deserve it, not the kids I heard on the radio.

Dec. 05 2013 10:21 AM
Ritchard from New York City

The lazy buggers (call them what you will John on your terrific show) are entitled to a pay increase, but if they want $15 an hour, they'd have to work their way up as have other Americans. As quoted left and right increasing the minimum salary to $15 will shut shut down too many small businesses. Ironically, healthy fast food places such as Maoz (in NYC) are still operating, but the ones providing health-depleting edibles are making all the noise, I repeat, noise. We know some have many mouths to feed but the same applies, and their reference to inequality is again the lazy way out. If the issue is lack of health benefits, they then get my support, a totally different issue.
May the fast food chains of "health-depleting edibles" die out.
Thank you...

Dec. 05 2013 10:12 AM
Jen from Farmington Hills, MI

Forgive my naivete in this but is there a reason that an increase in fast food workers' minimum wage automatically equates to a gigantic increase in the cost of food? I keep hearing "where does the money come from". Are these companies making a profit? If so, do we as the public hold them in any way responsible for the fair wages of their employees? I would be willing to pay more for food if the fast food industry was also willing to use their profits to fairly compensate their employees. I have never understood why when certain costs go up the company/corp is justified in passing 100% of said cost onto the customer. Shouldn't this be a shared responsibility?

Dec. 05 2013 09:52 AM
Jay Bianchi

Why is raising the price of fast food never discussed? Or do we have a right to food that is so inexpensive that it's preparers can not earn a living wage?

Dec. 05 2013 09:32 AM
derek coté from detroit, MI

I don't know what to say about fast foods "Dilemma." I haven't eaten fast food since college for two reasons - one it's terrible for me, two I don't believe in supporting one of America's most amoral sectors. I am a University professor with a modest income and raise one child with my wife who stays home with our son. We shop at the grocery store and buy primarily whole food, that is to say food that needs to be prepped and cooked. We don't buy frozen or processed food, or at least the very least that we can. The fact is cooking your own food from scratch takes about as long as it takes to cook a frozen pizza and we have found that it actually saves us a lot of money. I say let McDonald's and the likes to raise their prices in exchange for a fair wage. If people stop eating fast food we will be a better nation (and a thinner one) as a result.

Dec. 05 2013 09:29 AM

For the workers that John Hockenberry was trying to argue ("interview" is too generous a term) about with Angelo Amador, there really is a federal tax subsidy. It is called the Earned Income Tax Credit and it provides support for low-wage workers with families. Those families don't pay any federal income taxes; they actually get a credit under the EITC. A payment, from the federal government.

I suspect that there are a lot of public radio listeners who didn't even notice the change in tone on the part of John Hockenberry between the first and second interview segments. Hockenberry was in attack mode with Mr. Amador. But he became the friendly interlocutor with the two workers.

This segment is transparently an effort to buttress the current messaging from the Obama White House. This isn't news or analysis.

You might have really educated your listeners, had you hosted an honest debate of this general idea (here authored by Dr. Mark Perry of the AEI):

Dec. 05 2013 09:23 AM

Tell the fast food moguls about Henry Fords your people more s all competitors
will need to and the workers will have more
money to spend. Refer to Robert Reich on
The Commonwealth Club of California or in
his new book.

Dec. 05 2013 09:20 AM
RR from Asheville, NC

Angelo's view is disgusting, these giant fast food corporations are making soo much money and Angelo feels like the frontline workers should stay in squalor. Where is his compassion and humanity?

Dec. 05 2013 09:17 AM
RJ from Brooklyn, NY

I'm stunned that you can promo this as a *new* problem. For 30+ years working people's wages have flat-lined, so they've been driven to payday loans, mortgages they can't afford, credit card usage for health emergencies that lead to bankruptcy, and, yes, the cheap, planned obsolescent products of Walmart, Target, etc. And the poor overall wages have been matched by those of the very same stores--as well as fast-food, retail, etc. wages. It's been a push to the bottom for decades. It just shows the strength of grassroots organizing that you and your media colleagues are deciding to pay attention. For the moment.

Dec. 05 2013 09:12 AM

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