Fast-food strike hits Greensboro

by Eric Ginsburg Twitter: @Eric_Ginsburg

Fast-food workers in Greensboro joined a 50-city strike on Aug. 29 for higher pay and to stand for the right to organize without retaliation. Workers and supporters lined the street in front of Taco Bell on Battleground Avenue as part of the call for a $15-an-hour wage.

One of the striking workers, a Taco Bell employee, said he is fed up.

“We’re grown people with grown bills,” he said. “I can’t have a comfortable life working at $7.75 an hour and barely making 40 hours a week.”

That’s the most he’s made in seven years off and on in fast food, working at McDonald’s, Steak & Shake and now Taco Bell. The Greensboro native, who is 32, worked higher paying jobs and made up to $13 an hour, but after being laid off, fast food was the only industry where he could find work here.

People often look down on fastfood workers, he said, and assume they don’t work hard. That isn’t true: They spend long days on their feet, sometimes without air conditioning, and they make next to nothing, he said.

The employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being fired for talking to the press and for going on strike, said he doesn’t have sick days and when workers are sick, they have to bring a doctor’s note as evidence. That’s no easy feat without insurance or the money for a doctor’s visit, he said.

When his paycheck for the last two weeks came through, it was only for $250.

“Who can survive off that?” he asked.

“Everything else I can deal with it’s just the pay is not enough to survive on. I had to postpone my cell phone bill because I can’t even pay that.”

He’s single and lives with roommates, but they’re struggling financially, too. Despite his concerns about losing his job, he said he and his coworkers are too tired not to act. Inspired by the fast-food strikes he saw in New York City recently, he’s hopeful that the strike in Greensboro will be a step towards $15 an hour pay for him and other workers in his industry.

“If the pay was better, I would have no problem staying,” he said. “I like my job, the people that I’m serving. I know my customers by name. It’s just very, very stressful and we’re tired of not getting paid for the work that we do.”

Fast-food workers in Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh also participated in the nationwide strike, according to a coalition of supporters.

Taco Bell spokesperson Ashley Sioson declined to comment on the employee’s assertions and directed questions regarding the strike, wages, conditions and sick policy to the National Restaurant Association because “because [the strike] is a matter that impacts the entire restaurant industry.”

Alex Ashe contributed reporting for this article.