Fast food workers in Wilmington joined protesters nationwide calling for $15 an hour and the right to unionize without employer retaliation.
Thursday’s strike in Wilmington took place at the Burger King on Concord Pike in Wilmington, one of 50 cities where protests are taking place across the country. However, striking workers rallying against what they describe as poverty wages walked off jobs at Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s and Wendy’s.
According to Americans for Democratic Action, a nonpartisan grassroots economic justice advocacy group, the median wage for the 7,336 fast food workers in Wilmington is $8.59.
“This $7.25 is just not working,” said Neka Hunter, who works at the Burger King in New Castle. “It’s hard to pay bills, it’s hard to support our 9-year-old little girl.” She walked off the job, joining husband Benjamin Hunter who is a cook at the Wilmington Burger King.
“Nobody can survive on $7.25,” Benjamin Hunter said. “The economy has risen and the cost of living has risen, so the cost of pay should go up too.”
“When we’re asking for $15, some people say, ‘That’s so much money,’ but $15 is not even a living wage,” said Ezra Temko, who heads up the Delaware chapter of ADA. Standing alongside strikers, Temko says the living wage in Wilmington and New Castle County for an adult with one child is $21.84 an hour.
“It’s a step forward. It’s going to give people a little bit of an opportunity to pay their rent, pay their electric bill,” Temko said, adding many of these fast food chains don’t even provide healthcare. “This is a $200 billion industry. I mean, Burger King for example… made enough profits in the first three months of this year alone to pay over 2 million workers a $15/hour living wage.”
“The average age is 26 to 28-years-old working in fast food,” Hunter said. “These are not high school jobs anymore. These have become real jobs.”
“It makes us sad that we can’t supply for our daughter, and it feels like we have let our daughter down because we can’t make enough money to pay these bills and to support our little girl, so it’s very hard,” Hunter’s wife said.
Swamped with orders, the district manager of the Burger King in Wilmington where Thursday’s strike took place had no comment.
WHYY also reached out to McDonald’s. The company emailed a statement that reads in part, “We respect our employees’ rights to voice their opinions… McDonald’s does not determine wages set by our more than 3,000 U.S. franchisees.”
The fast food industry has argued mandating higher wages would force restaurants to layoff employees or cut their hours.
Today’s strike follows walkouts by fast food workers in seven cities earlier this summer.