Austin fast food workers participate in nationwide strike

Austin fast food workers participate in nationwide strike

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Across the U.S. people are walking off the job. It's being called the largest strike to ever hit the fast food industry. Similar events have happened before, but for the first time, Austin workers participated.

It's not easy to organize a strike in the fast food industry, but Thursday, 50 of cities are experiencing just that. And for the first time, Austin had workers walk off the job and rally for better pay and the right to form a union without retaliation.

A culinary school graduate with more than 16 years of experience, Greg Lee is working in the food industry...It's just not the career he was hoping for.

"I work at Long John Silver's and I make $7.25 an hour," said Lee.

Lee and this group of activists, elected officials and fast-food workers are rallying for $15 an hour and a right to unionize without retaliation.

Lee said, "We making these people billions of dollars, why put us on the backburner like that? Pay us, what we are worth."

50 cities are being impacted by marches like this, some, like Austin and Dallas are experiencing their first fast food strike ever.

The minimum wage in Texas is $7.25 an hour, the same as the federal wage baseline.

The median wage for cooks, cashiers and crew members working in Austin is $8.83.

Not everyone we ran into supports the movement.

"Get another job that pays more. It's your choice," said Tony Colmenero. "Get another job, that pays more."

"They have three jobs," said a rally participant.

He replied, "Get another one. Move up. It's America, land of opportunity."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of a fast food worker is 28.

For women, that age is 32.

"I get $8.45 an hour...right now I'm staying back at home, at my dad's house 'cause I know I won't be able to make it out there on my own without having to struggle every single day," said Maria Ortiz, a single working mom.

A living-wage calculator shows one out of every four fast food workers have children.

Ortiz said, "It'd give me more pay to where I'd be able to work and support myself and not have to ask anyone else for help so that 15 would do a lot of good for me."

"As soon as you cash your check, it's gone. You have to pay your bills...working in this industry, it's gone. It's just gone and it's not fair," added Lee.

A statement released by McDonald's says "strikers are not characteristic of all their workers and that its stores would remain open."

None of the fast food restaurants in town have had to close.

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