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Fast Food Forward: Who Can Really Afford to Pay a Living Wage ?

“Stephen Warner works part-time at a McDonald’s in New York City, earning the legal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. He hasn’t seen a pay bump since he started six months ago. Depending on how many shifts he gets, he says his take-home pay sometimes comes out to less than $100 for the week.

Hoping for a living wage, the 27-year-old said he plans to protest his own employer on Thursday, and he believes that several of his coworkers will join him.

“While I’m making $7.25, my money can’t take me anywhere. The price of living is going up it seems every day,” Warner, a Bronx resident, said in an interview Wednesday. “I appreciate the opportunity to work. But I want them to consider how much I make and ask [themselves] if they could live off of it.”

Warner has joined a rare fast-food labor campaign called Fast Food Forward. The union- and faith-backed effort drew national attention last November when itspearheaded strikes at several of New York City’s fast-food restaurants, criticizing the likes of Wendy’s, Taco Bell and Burger King for paying wages that workers struggle to live on. Warner’s protest Thursday will be part of what organizers are billing as the campaign’s second and larger wave.

Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change, a community group closely involved in the campaign, said he expects between 400 and 500 fast-food employees in New York City to take part in Thursday’s one-day strike, or about double the number of those who participated last year. That’s a small fraction of the city’s tens of thousands of such employees, but Westin said the participation may be large enough to disrupt business at some of the affected restaurants.

Westin said many of the workers who plan to protest on Thursday were inspired by the actions of their colleagues last year. And many of those employees, he added, had been inspired by the strikers who walked out of Walmart stores on Black Friday with similar complaints of low wages and a lack of benefits like health care coverage…”

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