All In   |  July 29, 2013

McDonald's employee: 'It's time to take a stand'

Chris Hayes talks to an All In panel about protests for a living wage spreading across the U.S.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> are hundreds of angry fast food workers walking off the job this afternoon.

>> that was part of the afternoon news today in st. louis, missouri. this was the scene there. hundreds of striking workers and their supporters gathering to protest for the right of fast food workers to join unions. the same story played out in kansas city today, 160 people marched on a local burger king . only manager-level employees were on duty. across new york city , organizers say hundreds of workers walked off the job today. the simultaneous strikes and marches were designed to kick off a large nationwide movement. organizers say will continue to spread to cities all over the country this week. this is a story we first covered in the very first week of the show. back then, it was only happening here in new york, but since then, the movement of fast food workers demanding a living wage and the right to organize has exploded. it's gone national, and it is still growing. this week's strikes come on the heels of the president's renewed campaign-stale push on the economy just last week. that included a call to raise the minimum wage .

>> because no one who works full time in america should have to live in poverty, i am going to keep making the case that we need to raise the minimum wage because it's lower right now than it was when ronald reagan took office. it's time for the minimum wage to go up.

>> president followed up that speech with an interview with "the new york times" this weekend in which he identified inequality and lack of social mobility in this country is defining issues of our time. saying "if we stand pat, if we don't do anything, then growth will be slower than it should be. unemployment will not go down as fast as it should. income inequality will continue to rise. the central problem we face and the one we face now, the immediate crisis is over, is how do we build a broad-based prosperity?" today, this week, as washington slumps toward an august recess with no sign of a minimum wage bill in sight, the folks trying to make a living on minimum wage in this country are taking matters into their own hands.

>> i've been working here at burger king for two years and at pizza hut for eight years. my mother, she worked for the same industry. i watched her struggle raising me and my siblings.

>> i'm still completely broke. even with living with my mother.

>> we do the job. we serve more.

>> in a multibillion dollar industry where they're making record profits, literally billions and billions of profits in recovering from the rescission and the workers on the bottom are making poverty wages.

>> rent is $700. gas is $50. electricity is $50. coffee is $50. and i only make $409. i'm at a deficit.

>> i'm working 15 hours a day which puts me away from home 17 hours a day. you talk about watching your kids grow up overnight. i don't get to see my kids for consecutive days because i work two jobs.

>> the right to organize is a human right. increasing the minimum wage is only the humane option we have.

>> joining me now, a staff attorney with national employment law project. karim starks, an employee at mcdonald 's. and gregory , a former delivery driver for domino's who works with fast food forward. we did reach out to mcdonald 's and domino's to invite them on the show. they have not taken us up on the offer. the offer still stands. karim, you're on strike. if there's a mcdonald 's executive watching this right now and thinking to themselves, we have hundreds of thousands of employees, there are some folks who disgruntled. what do you say to them?

>> what do i say? i say it's time to take a stand, like, it's time for us, as, like, a union, as one, to just speak up and say what's right. like, it's not right we're making $7.25 and work twice as hard.

>> you said in one interview i read with you that you are -- that there's a squeeze on you because they're trying to do more with less workers. that you have noticed a speedup. the amount of work that you have to do now is more than it was when you first started. what's going on there?

>> what's going on is they're just cutting back. like, they cut back on hours. they cut back on employees. and, you know, great employees like myself have to work twice as hard. like, i might be forced to do job one or two, or be forced to make burgers and, you know, do the grill. and at the same time, it's not fair. it's not fair that i have to work twice as hard and i only make $7.25.

>> you're making minimum wage right now.

>> right now.

>> how long have you been working there?

>> i've been working there going on five months now.

>> okay. i want to talk to you, gregory , about what happened to you at domino's. you decided to engage with the strikes. you were quite vocal. you participated in three strikes. then what happened to you?

>> on the second strike, everybody in my store come out my store under strike. they retaliate and set up meetings across the union.

>> retaliated, tried to scare you, started talking to your co-workers.

>> finally they fired me.

>> they fired you.

>> they fired me. they found an excuse that was not proved, but they fired me.

>> this is, i mean, what's happening right now with folks like kareem and gregory going out on strike. when you hear that story, kareem, are you worried about your job?

>> not at all.

>> why not?

>> i feel like i've been worried how to figure out how to pay rent, get food on the table. there's nothing you can do to scare me right now.

>> it's scary enough to be making minimum wage .

>> exactly. it's scary enough to figure out that every month i might just be able just to make rent, you know? not even get food. so how scary is that not having food for your kids?

>> if the allegations of what gregory is saying are true, obviously i don't have domino's here to counter that. there's another side to that story. i want to give that due credence. if they are true, that is illegal. you cannot fire people because they are organizing for their rights.

>> right. i mean, workers in this country have the right to engage in protected, concerted activity to better their working conditions . but the --

>> explain what that means. that means even if they're not in the union --

>> even if they're not in the union, workers in the country, you can't hadon't have to be in a union. come together with co-workers, say, i want higher wages, i want to better my working conditions , protest against unlawful working conditions . the problem is workers have this right in theory, but in prak this, employers retaliate against workers. most of the time it goes unchecked because there isn't this type of community support and national media, you know, surrounding these types of strikes. i mean, one of the reasons why there's such a decline in strikes over the last decade is because workers have everything to lose from striking and employers have everything to gain.

>> right.

>> from retaliating. it's really courageous for workers like gregory to, you know, go out on strike, to organize their workers and to face the consequences and to not be afraid.

>> what do you hear -- yeah, what do you hear from -- what are your interactions with management like? when you go to work tomorrow, what is that going to be like?

>> nobody really says anything to me, like, i go in and i do my job. like, i try, you know, to stay professional at work at all times. so nobody really says anything to me, but other employees, they might feel like they can scare them and tell them they'll get fired behind closed doors or pull them to the side and be, like, you could lose your job for, like, organizing. but, you know, i try to educate everybody on the situation.

>> the employers say, look, if we pay youi a living wage , our business doesn't work. what do you say to that?

>> you know, minimum wage at $7.25 an hour is so far below what employers used to pay. the minimum wage used to be almost $11, had it kept pace with inflation. economists across the political spectrum agree the reason why job growth is slow is because consumers don't have money to spend because they're making poverty wages.

>> i want to say, show a bit, rick berman on fox business , rick berman is a hired gun essentially of various agencies, this is him arguing for why you shouldn't make more money. take a listen.

>> at $15 an hour, many, i won't say a majority, but many fast food restaurants are out of business. business model just doesn't not support those kind of wages, and if people are feeling that they're not being paid adequately, they've got to find a job someplace elsewhere the business model pays higher wages.

>> you're shaking your head. i want to get your response to that and bring in a member of congress who is out on the picket line today, right after we take this break. s... polly