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Fast-food workers to strike in New York

April 4, 2013 at 7:47 AM   |   Comments

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NEW YORK, April 4 (UPI) -- Fast-food workers in New York said they would honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by going out on strike Thursday for higher wages.

On 45th anniversary of the day King was assassinated while supporting a sanitation workers' strike in Memphis, non-unionized New York fast-food workers said they expected about 400 colleagues to walk out on their jobs, double the number who did so in November.

The November work action at the time was the largest strike ever conducted by fast-food workers, The New York Times reported.

The strike is supported by several groups, including Fast Food Forward, New York Communities for Change, UnitedNY.org, the Black Institute, the Service Employees International Union and local clergy, the Times said.

Thursday's strike is expected to include workers from about 70 fast-food restaurants.

Across the city, there are 50,000 fast-food workers, most making minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour.

That is the rate, as yet unchanged, that Tabitha Verges has earned for four years at a Burger King in Harlem. When she has asked for raise, "They always give me the same excuse -- that they're not making enough money," she said.

Verges, who's weekly take-home pay is $122 for a 25-hour-per-week job, said she plans to join the walkout.

"We believe that it's a continuation of a civil rights fight against low wages and for Martin Luther King's movement to win dignity and living-wage jobs," said Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change.

New York state lawmakers have recently raised the minimum wage to $9 per hour, which does not take affect until 2016.

The fast-food workers are seeking $15 per hour now, the Times said.

"My community in Flatbush is filled with fast-food workers who have been suffering due to low wages, no sick days and unsafe working conditions," said the Rev. Cheri Kroon, associate minister of the Flatbush Reform Church in Brooklyn.

Miguel Piedra, a spokesman for Burger King, said the company offers "compensation and benefits that are consistent with the quick-serve restaurant industry."

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