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Justice to go: Fast food workers fight for raises
N.C. activists slam low wages, record profits
 
Published Wednesday, October 23, 2013 10:33 am
by Latisha Catchatoorian

DURHAM – Fast food workers and community members gathered at Arby’s restaurant last week to continue to press for better working wages.

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PHOTO/LATISHA CATCHATOORIAN
Fast food workers in North Carolina rally outside of Arby’s restaurant in Durham.

Nearly 20 percent of front-line fast food workers live below the federal poverty line, and nearly half of the workers in North Carolina receive at least one form of public assistance. One-third is on food stamps. 

“We are here today to stand in solidarity with more than 65,000 fast food workers in North Carolina who are barely surviving on the wages paid to them by the major fast food corporations,” said Kevin Rogers, policy and public affairs director for Action NC. “We are coming together to challenge such corporations and their practices.” 

Jeanette Lynn, a McDonald’s worker in Durham, is a mother of three trying to make a living on $7.25 per hour. She has been working for two years without a raise. 

“Big companies like McDonald’s are making billions of dollars a year. They shouldn’t force us to rely on taxpayers’ money,” she said. “We deserve a raise and that’s why I am part of this movement. We deserve a change.” 

The median wage of a full-time fast food worker in North Carolina translates to roughly $18,000 a year - well below the poverty line. Most workers do not even get a full-time 40-hour week work schedule. 

“Many of the fastest growing jobs in North Carolina are also the lowest paid,” said Sabine Schoenbach of the N.C. Justice Center Worker’s Rights Project. 

Willietta Dukes has been in the fast food industry for over 16 years. She said the economy would be so much stronger if workers didn’t have to depend on federal programs to survive.

“In the run of a day, I stand on my feet for eight hours a day; most days longer than that and I hardly ever have time to take a break,” she said. 

“My family depends on me. I work hard but still my basic needs are a constant struggle. These companies should do the right thing and at least pay us a living wage.” 

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins of Covenant Presbyterian Church said the church believes in justice for the poor, proper wages for workers and the opportunity for people to advance. 

“We need to be concerned about the living person,” he said. “Living wages for living human beings.”

Tenesha Hueston, a fast food worker and single mother of three, said she barely makes it week to week. Though a full-time employee, she relies on food stamps to put food on the table. 

“We deserve better,” she said. “We are not stopping now, this is only the beginning.”

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