Fast food and retail workers stand up for moral wages

Adam DeRose |

You might have heard it in the news or on social media, but lately low-wage workers are finding new creative ways to call out their employers for immorally low wages. Workers have been standing up and walking out of fast food joints and retail shops this week drawing attention to their paychecks in our troubling economy. Their wages have left some to choose between food and rent. Others are forced to pick up a second job, working much more than 40 hours a week.

Earlier this week, New York Times reporter Stephen Greenhouse reported A Day’s Strike Seeks to Raise Fast-Food Pay. The strikes began in New York City and Chicago and other Midwestern cities across the country: Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit and Flint, Mich. Strikers held protests outside shops where workers were striking, causing plenty of public attention and notice from the press.

Earlier this summer, workers in government buildings, like Union Station and the Reagan building in Washington D.C., participated in similar strikes and called on the President to sign an executive order making sure employers who receive government contracts pay a decent wage and don't steal wages from workers. Last week, low-wage workers and allies reminded Congress that it's been four years since the minimum wage has been increased (21 years since an increase in the minimum wage for tipped workers). 

Greenhouse reports that workers calling attention to the immoral wages their employers are paying and their affects on low-income communities:

“These companies aren’t magically going to make our lives better,” said Terrance Wise, who earns $9.30 an hour after working for eight years at a Burger King in Kansas City, plus $7.40 an hour at his second job at Pizza Hut. “We can sit back and stay silent and continue to live in poverty or, on the other hand, we can step out and say something and let it be known that we need help.”

This week, in a special way, we're calling on our brothers and sisters to lift up the concerns of these low-wage workers who are bravely standing up for dignity in the workplace. Our faith reminds us to affirm the dignity of ALL work.

Interfaith Worker Justice and our affiliates are supporting these workers in both body and spirit. Some affiliates have even joined workers at actions and protests outside shops and restaurants in their local communities. We're going to continue to support their calls for a $15 dollar minimum wage, especially in these sectors and urban areas. We're going to continue to call on lawmakers to listen to the cries of their people and support raising the federal minimum wage—an important first step in creating a moral economy.

Learn more about IWJ's work to raise the wage to see how you can get involved. Send us a note if you'd like to get involved in this important work in the communities listed above!