At noon, about 50 to 60 fast food workers and supporters gathered outside the McDonald’s at 4920 Kirby to pray and make their voices heard.
The Rev. Ronnie Lister is with the Service Employees International Union.
“One day soon justice will come to all of those who are working in fast foods — McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King. Let’s keep up the fight until justice rolls down like waters.”
And justice, if you ask the protesters, is a raise of the minimum wage to $15 an hour. It’s currently $7.25.
Luis Ortiz has worked at Burger King for the last seven years and still makes near minimum wage. He says that’s not enough to support his family, including a daughter who will be going to college soon.
“I’m looking for another job, but I love Burger King, I love my job. I love what I’m doing (which is) the reason why I stay here. And I led seven years of my life in this company.”
Mario Salinas is the president of local nonprofit Latino Giving Houston, which supports the strikes. He says Ortiz’s is not an isolated case.
“Half of the fast food workers in the country, even if they work full-time, are forced to go on some sort of public assistance. And that’s not fair for them and it’s not fair for us as taxpayers.”
He says these jobs are not just for high school and college students anymore, who work part time for some extra income.
Steven Craig is an economist at the University of Houston. He says not all fast food workers are getting paid the minimum wage but he understands the concerns of those who do. But he doesn’t think raising the minimum wage is the solution.
“If wages essentially double, what’s going to happen to the price of fast food? And the answer is, it’s not going to go down. It’ll go up some. It won’t go up by as much as the wages, of course. And so, what that means is that there’ll actually be less fast food bought and sold, and so there’ll actually end up being less workers in the fast food industry.”
He says a better way to deal with the problem is for low-income workers to take advantage of the earned income tax credit, a federal benefit for working people who have low to moderate income.
“Because it has less economic distortions. You don’t put the burden on the people that lose their job — the low-income people that lose their job.”
The protesters, on the other hand, say the issue could be resolved if the CEOs of fast food companies would just take a cut off their million dollar salaries and pass it on to their workers.