Richmond, VA Workers Among Participants in International Fast Food Strike for Living Wage
“We can’t survive on $7.25!” That was the slogan chanted by dozens of fast-food workers in Richmond, Virginia, and around the globe during their one-day strike on May 15, 2014, for an increased pay rate of $15 an hour—about double what minimum wage workers are making.
Workers of McDonald’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy’s, Popeye’s, and other major fast-food chains, notified their employers that they were on strike against:
- Unfair labor practices;
- the right to have a union; and
- the right to a living wage
Virginia Diamond is Ashcraft & Gerel’s special counsel for labor and employment law. She is a long-time activist and supporter of workers’ rights, and especially the right to unionize without fear. In keeping with that personal history, she was honored to help with the protest held in Richmond, Virginia.
Ms. Diamond is using her experience in labor law and with unions to explain how the law supports the fast-food workers’ call for better wages and working conditions, and for the right to be free from employer retaliation. She says, “Federal labor law—Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act—protects the right of workers to engage in concerted activity, including a strike. Such legal protection applies to workers who are not yet organized, just as it applies to unionized workers.”
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Bottom line: Employers cannot impose negative consequences on workers who exercise this right.
While employee participation in strikes can be disruptive to businesses, such activity is nevertheless protected by law. An employer violates the law if it punishes an employee’s strike activity. The employer cannot discipline workers for missing time during the strike itself or the violation of some alleged notice requirements. Even minor disciplinary action by the employer, such as written warnings, is not permitted.
This idea of hard-working people wanting to make a living wage—enough to support themselves and their families—isn’t just a dream for American workers. The call for living wages is being shouted across the world. On May 15th, 2014 fast-food workers in New York City, Richmond, and Chicago joined their fellow fast-food employees in Zurich and Geneva, Switzerland, Tokyo, Japan, and Aukland, New Zealand to fight for fair wages.
This kind of solidarity, along with the clear, firm voices of our fast-food workers, can and will lead to a living wage for all.
People who work hard every day should not be living in poverty. These workers are very courageous in standing up for their rights and Ashcraft & Gerel applaud their bravery.