Socialist Worker

US fast food worker: 'The rich want us to be slaves - but they are the few and we can win'

Alvin Major is a KFC worker from Brooklyn, New York City. He spoke to Socialist Worker about the wave of resistance he has been organising with other fast food workers for better pay and rights at work.

Issue No. 2430

Alvin Major speaking at Unite the Resistance national conference in London

Alvin Major speaking at Unite the Resistance national conference in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Alvin was the first worker in his KFC store in New York City to strike two years ago.

“I was working on average over 80 hours a week working for the same company at three different stores but getting no overtime payments,” he said.

“I have four kids that I need to put food on the table for.

“The money that they are paying us right now you can barely exist on it. Any time you could end up on the streets. We’re struggling to pay our rent.

 “A union organiser explained to me they were essentially stealing my wages.

“That’s why I got involved in the movement. We got workers together to decide on our demands for $15 (£9.50) an hour and the right to form a union.”

Now half the workforce is involved in the action – and the movement is growing in strength.

“My brother also works for KFC and he has almost the whole store in the union. So when they strike they shut the place down.

The strikers have escalated by taking direct action and have faced police repression – but they are determined to continue the fight.

“On one of our strikes we all went down to 42nd street – one of the main streets in New York City, and we sat down in the street,” Alvin explained.

“They arrested us but a couple hours later we went and did it again.

“And we did that in 150 cities all over the country – a whole heap of people got arrested that day. We decided to do whatever it takes because the fight that we fight is a just fight and we got to get what we deserve so we escalated it.”

Alvin was part of a delegation of fast food workers that toured Britain last week with the Fast Food Rights campaign, which is backed by the bakers’ Bfawu union.

Delegation

Successful meetings were held in Glasgow and London supported by the STUC and the TUC. The delegation also spoke at the Unite the Resistance conference.

Alvin said the international links the fast food strikers are making is helping to build the belief that their struggle is a just one.

“People don’t believe that say a McDonalds worker gets paid £6.50 an hour in Britain or over $20 an hour in Denmark.”

“These companies we are fighting are international. What we want to do now is if we have a strike on the 15th in New York, we want to have a strike in Britain on the 15th, in Japan, in Brazil, in France. We want to spread this and just be striking everywhere.

Alvin said there is a sense of history among the workers and they have been inspired by other workers’ struggle.

“If you look at the sanitation workers, they used to be like the fast food workers. Because they fought back and struck they gained respect for their job and reasonable pay.

“Now it’s the same with the fast food workers. Systematically they have been destroying the unions in our country, dividing the workers and bringing in zero hours contracts.

“The rich want to make us just like slaves where a few rich are running everything and everybody else must be poor. So they give us a meagre wage that we can barely exist on. This is what we face throughout the world.

“In this system they want us to just always be dependent, living from pay cheque to pay cheque and frightened to take a chance by fighting against them.

“They want us to worry about getting our next pay cheque, that we might end up out of our house and not able to feed our kids.

“We need to remember they are the few and we can win because we have got the numbers. We need to stick together – unity is strength.

“We give them their strength and we can take it from them.”

Get invovled in the Fast Food Rights campaign fastfoodrights.wordpress.com/

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