NY City Council hosts hearing on food industry wages

June 28, 2013

More than 100 quick-service workers, policy experts, community leaders and clergy members appeared at a New York City Council hearing Thursday to share their stories about wage theft incidences, and to continue their call for higher wages.

According to a release, those in attendance were speaking on behalf of the city's 50,000 QSR employees and represented the Fast Food Forward campaign, which was created to lobby for a higher minimum wage and the right to form a union without interference.

Fast Food Forward also facilitated a strike in November in New York City, an effort that spread to other cities including Chicago and St. Louis. In April, another protest was held in New York City, which was called the largest strike in fast food history.

At Thursday's meeting, Jonathan Westin, the campaign's director, told the City Council that everyone suffers when the $200 billion QSR industry pays its employees minimum wage.

"Taxpayers pick up the tab for their food stamps and homeless shelter. Landlords lose tenants when families are forced to double up. Shop owners lose customers when people can't afford to buy any extras," he said.

The workers are specifically fighting for $15 an hour.

"When I think I'm going to get paid for 35 hours at the end of the week, I'll only see 30 on my check and not even know how that happened. I have direct deposit, but Burger King doesn't make it easy to get your paystub, so it's not like I can check how they calculated my money," said Keon Joesph, 20, a Burger King worker in Brooklyn. "I can't afford to have Burger King stealing money out of my paycheck. Paying for school, helping out with bills, it's just so hard. We have to rely on food stamps to get by."

Last month, the New York Times published a report about widespread bounced checks, late payments and forced hours off the clock in the city's QSR segment. After the report was published, New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman responded that his office is investigating the issue.

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