Fast Food Workers Claim Retaliation after Wage Protests
(APN) ATLANTA — Some Atlanta fast-food workers who added their voices to a strike for a 15 dollars per hour wage, and the right to form a union without retaliation, that swept 150 U.S. cities–with counterpart protests in 33 countries worldwide–on May 15, 2014, are now experiencing first-hand just what that retaliation looks like.
The local day of action, led by workers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Krystal, and Taco Bell, with support from ATL Raise Up and Atlanta Jobs with Justice, featured rallies at several local fast food restaurants and earned the support of community leaders including Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Rev. Gregory Williams, and State Sens. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta).
Following the actions, one worker from Burger King was fired, one worker from Taco Bell was fired, and another from Taco Bell had her hours cut.
“I felt like I was fired because I stood up for something I believed in. It wasn’t about being in the spotlight. It was about having a platform to say these are billion dollar companies and we can’t get fifteen,” Joshua Collins, who was fired from his job at Burger King, told Atlanta Progressive News in a phone interview from the hospital where he welcomed his newborn son.
In response to the retaliation towards the two Taco Bell workers, the coalition organized a May 19 rally at Taco Bell on Ponce De Leon. Jobs with Justice took up a collection to help the affected workers and ATL Raise up is facilitating ongoing legal processes through the National Labor Relations Board.
“The way that we fight back is by using the process. We file charges, we get our attorneys involved. We did the rally in support of those who have been retaliated against to show the employer that we will fight back; however, we want to highlight our successes. This movement has had far more successes and it will continue to be successful,” Kamilah Bryant, organizer with ATL Raise Up, told APN.
Those successes include the City of Seattle raising the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour, and several companies following suit including Gap, Inc., raising theirs to ten dollars an hour and Whole Foods Market raising theirs to eleven.
Moving forward, the campaigners will participate in Freedom Summer events and continue telling workers’ stories in efforts to dispel the myth that most fast food workers are teenagers looking for extra spending money.
Collins, who also has a 3 year-old, says he spoke up for better pay, on behalf of his children.
“I didn’t harm anybody. I wanted to stand up and speak. I felt like my whole store could have come with me. I’m not living lavish. I come from a real scary area in Atlanta. To me, I felt like the only way to succeed is to never forget where I come from, but where I come from doesn’t stop me from where I’m trying to go.”
Collins says he’s not pursuing getting his job back at Burger King and is hoping to find another job. He still supports the Fight for 15 and says he has no regrets about standing up for better pay and conditions.