The lofty goals of Fast Food Forward may be unattainable
December 11, 2012
A labor movement has recently been gaining momentum under the name Fast Food Forward, a collective of New York City fast-food workers in pursuit of higher wages and the right to unionize. Considering the high cost of living in the city and the discri
minatory terminations of those whom attempt to exercise their right to organize, their demands are understandable, but may be unattainable at their present desired levels.
The current working conditions for New York City fast-food employees require them to deal with a stagnant minimum wage that hasn’t kept up with rising costs of living in the city, particularly for food and housing. Coupled with hourly pay that makes this unsustainable for workers, greater conditions of employment must be implemented to ensure fairness.
In addition, fast food workers are limited in their ability to organize — those who attempt to create or lead unions are routinely fired. This limitation is the root cause of the wage issues that the workers now face. Because they are largely replaceable, they have no leverage to demand the living wage that they deserve. The ability to organize is a fundamental right for workers; without it, they are at the mercy of their employers, who only see profits and not their employees’ subsistent needs.
While we think the minimum wage for fast food employees in New York City should be raised, the union’s hyperbolic $15-an-hour demand is a lofty place to start. Fast food is not the only industry in the city that pays minimum wage. It would be unfair for only fast-food workers to realize a wage increase while workers in similar conditions watch helplessly on the sidelines.
If this movement catches on, we could see a general increase in the state-wide minimum wage from those in power, which would affirm these efforts and solidify the status of all workers regardless of position.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec.11 print edition. Email the editorial board at [email protected]