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Fast-Food Workers in Rochester Protest for an Increase in Minimum Wage

fastfood_workers_protestRochester fast-food workers, along with cashiers, convenience store workers, airport employees, and home care workers, participated in a national strike Dec. 4, calling for an increase in minimum wage, the right to form unions, and better benefits for employees, according to local organization Metro Justice.

Workers from Wendy’s, Burger King, and Tim Horton’s, as well as representatives from Metro Justice, gathered at the corner of Elmwood Ave. and Mt. Hope Ave. Thursday, while the crowd of 100 protestors chanted, after marching down Mt. Hope Ave.

The nearby Tim Horton’s had to close because so many of its workers were on strike.

“I’m participating in the strike for more respect, for better pay, a better life, and being able to take care of my family,” said Emily Sullivan, an assistant manager at the Wendy’s on E. Ridge Rd.

Sullivan said she has worked at the fast-food restaurant for eight years, and makes $9 per hour, the minimum amount of pay a manager can make at Wendy’s.

She also said she receives no medical benefits from the company.

“I just want more respect, and to be able to pay bills on time,” Sullivan stated.

She said she hadn’t gotten any response from the restaurant’s management relative to her participation in the strike, but she was scheduled to return to work today, Dec. 5, in what Metro Justice representatives called a “walk-back.”

“The walk-backs are a formal process for the employees to present a letter to the employer that says, ‘I’m offering to come back to work, unconditionally,’ and the employer is required to accept them back,” said Eamonn Scanlon, of Metro Justice. “That’s the labor law. They present a letter to the employer before they go on strike that says they will be participating in the strike for one day; then they present a letter when they return. It’s part of the legal process. And, if they didn’t present the letters, there would not be an official record for the employee.”

According to Scanlon, initially, the fair-wage debate started two years ago, after 200 New York City fast-food workers walked off their jobs, sparking a nationwide movement for $15 and union rights.

Following that, workers in other cities, including Rochester, held additional protests in September; then, Walmart workers led nationwide strikes Black Friday, calling for $15 an hour, and full-time work.

Workers in 190 cities participated in Thursday’s strike.

In addition, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued the following statement regarding the protests:

“I hope all New Yorkers and all Americans will sit up and listen to the message of the fast food workers taking to the streets today: Everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. As New York state attorney general, it is my job to ensure equal justice under law. It’s why I’ve fought to recover more than $19 million for nearly 14,000 workers over the past four years, and why we continue to crack down on wage theft by unscrupulous employers in every industry – including bringing criminal charges. It’s why my office supports New Yorkers’ right to a safe working environment and their right to join a union, without fear of retaliation. And it’s why I stand with all workers in their struggle for justice and fairness.”

Schneiderman also said a new report released by the U.S. Labor Department shows that up to 6.5 percent of New Yorkers are paid less than the minimum wage, with more than 300,000 workers suffering minimum-wage violations each month.

For additional information on Rochester’s strike, visit