Fast-food workers in KC join national protest over ‘poverty wages’

07/29/2013 8:25 PM

07/29/2013 8:25 PM

Fast-food workers served up a show of force Monday, rallying for higher wages in several major cities, including Kansas City.

Their message: Fast-food workers don’t make enough money to live on, particularly if they have families.

The activism, spurred by experienced labor organizers and coordinated across cities for the first time, put patrons of Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other restaurant chains on notice that the industry pays poverty-level wages to many of its entry-level workers.

“We’re building a movement of fast-food workers in a way that has never really existed in the fast-food industry,” said Jonathan Westin, an organizer for

New York Communities for Change

.

The rallies dovetailed with a new

National Employment Law Project report, “Going Nowhere Fast,”

which said non-managerial positions in the fast-food industry are among the lowest-paying in the nation, with a median wage of $8.94 an hour. That would amount to an annual full-time wage of about $18,500.

In Kansas City, about 160 people chanted, “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Poverty wages got to go,” on a short, noisy march on Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard that ended in the parking lot of a Burger King on the corner of Troost Avenue.

Most of the crowd wore red T-shirts reading “Stand up KC” and “We are worth more.” Many of the Kansas City fast-food workers carried signs that read “On strike. No retaliation.”

Some who attended said it wasn’t an official strike — because they were not union members — but it was a day of individual protest for wages that haven’t kept pace with inflation.

“I make $8 an hour and just get about 30 hours every two weeks,” said Lakiisha Dukes, who said she did not intend to report for work Monday afternoon at the Burger King where the rally was held.

Dukes said she was standing in the drizzle in the parking lot because she wanted “more respectful managers, more workers — we’re understaffed all the time — and pay of at least $12 an hour.”