I’ve been incredibly inspired by the #FastFoodGlobal campaign – fast food workers across the nation and the world. I’ve also been disheartened by some of the pushback I’ve seen to the campaign, from other working people. To me, some of this is steeped in very classist assumptions about who is and who should be a “fast food worker,” and what those people deserve. At the end of the day, this campaign is part of a long history of labor organizing in this country. I’ve read several reports from economists that illustrate how easily fast food companies could meet the demands of a union and $15 an hour. The work these organizers are doing to advocate for their human rights is admirable and deserves our support. I say that even as a vegan who doesn’t set foot in McDonald’s, but who staunchly believes in standing with workers and in the struggle for fair wages and working conditions.
Interview from the Frontlines of Fast Food Global
By Katy Otto | Published: June 24, 2014
I wanted to hear directly from a fast food worker who is part of this movement, so I interviewed Nicolette Roberts, from Las Vegas, Nevada. Take a look at our conversation.
Katy: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Nicolette: My name is Nicolette Roberts. I joined the Fight 15 campaign not just for myself but for all workers who suffer from low wages. I’ve been really excited to see just recently that Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour. It just goes to show that what we are asking for is possible, and that we can take on this fight.
K: Where do you work and what is your work life like?
N: I work at Southern Highlands in Las Vegas. In our city, people are getting inspired by the campaign. I’ve talked to co-workers about it. It’s hard – we want a union to help us fight for things like health insurance. For those of us who don’t get 40 hours of work a week, health insurance becomes fairly impossible. We also would like paid sick leave and emergency family leave. The work that we do is taxing. It’s been difficult to get some of the people I work with to meetings because many of them work night shifts, and that is when we hold our meetings. We have people from other shops too – Taco Bell, KFC…Many different folks are taking part.
K: How do you all get other folks involved?
N: We go to the various shops – Taco Bell, McDonald’s, many fast food restaurants in our area – and meet with people when they are changing their shift and off the clock. We can’t talk to people about what we are doing while they are working, so we wait until they are getting off of work. We try to get people to move past their understandable fear and towards a sense of possibility when doing this work. If language is an issue, and we have a language barrier, we’ve got folks organizing with us that speak a number of different languages. That’s been really great.
K: How has your supervisor responded to you doing this work?
N: She hasn’t responded negatively and knows I do it, but she prefers not to know the details.
K: How has the public at large responded to what you are doing?
N: Very well! We had a strike day on May 15. We went to 3 stores. Members of the community joined us to support what we are doing. At one of the stores they blocked the door. They do get scared.
K: Why do you think this is important?
N: This is very exciting. It’s a move that needed to happen years ago. People cannot survive on the wages we are paid. We have mothers working at fast food restaurants who often have to choose between diapers or food. They can’t provide for their families as they would like – and there are many, many mothers who work in fast food! I feel glad that the public is supporting us, and the more public support we have the better. We have also had policymakers and Congress members come to our rallies and events.
K: What do you think the biggest misunderstanding about fast food workers is?
N: The public doesn’t understand that it’s not just teenagers occupying these jobs. There are many adults trying to feed their families. This work is hard. Even the younger folks who do these jobs deserve better payment – they are saving up for college and trying to make something of themselves. It is grueling labor, and it turns a profit. We deserve fair compensation. We also want a union to help us fight for things like paid sick leave, healthcare and other benefits. I think everything we are asking for is attainable.
K: What inspired you along the way in doing this?
N: Knowing that there are many people I am fighting for. And that we can win.
K: What are you looking forward to this summer?
N: We are organizing to go to the McDonald’s Headquarters for a large rally in July. We plan to take a bus of 25 people from Las Vegas – I will be going, and I can’t wait.