Local fast-food workers plan rally to demand higher wages

Local fast-food workers will rally outside the Wendy’s restaurant located at 771 Warwick Ave. at 3 p.m. on Thursday, according to an email sent out Thursday afternoon from local social justice coalition Rhode Island Jobs with Justice. More

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Local fast-food workers plan rally to demand higher wages

BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/PATRICK T. FALLON
Fast-food workers and supporters organized by the Service Employees International Union protest outside of a McDonald's Corp. restaurant in Los Angeles, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 29, ratcheting up pressure on the industry to raise wages. Rhode Island fast-food workers have planned a similar rally Thursday outside the Wendy's restaurant at 771 Warwick Ave. to demand their wages be raised to $15 per hour, drawing inspiration from the national campaign that led to strikes in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
Posted 11/14/13

(Updated, 3:11 p.m.)

WARWICK – Local fast-food workers will rally outside the Wendy’s restaurant located at 771 Warwick Ave. at 3 p.m. on Thursday, according to an email sent out Thursday afternoon from local social justice coalition Rhode Island Jobs with Justice.

“We need to get the economy moving again, and that starts with low-wage service jobs,” the email stated. “Because many of these workers are forced on to public assistance, money is flowing out of Rhode Island to increase the billions in profits that multinational corporations like Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s enjoy.”

According to the email, members of the clergy and community supporters will join workers in calling for their wages to be raised to $15 per hour and for the right to organize under a union, echoing the theme of a national campaign that led to a series of strikes in Boston, New York, Chicago and other cities across the country earlier this year.

“We have to do without a lot,” said Jo-Ann Gesterling in the email. Gesterling has been working at the Wendy’s in Warwick for five years and makes $8.20 an hour, the email said. “Some people I’m working with have trouble buying food and need to rely on food stamps. They are having trouble finding a place to live.”

As of January 1, 2014, the minimum wage in Rhode Island will be raised to $8 after rising to $7.75 in 2013 per wage laws passed by the R.I. General Assembly in 2012.

The Rhode Island Jobs with Justice said most fast-food workers in Rhode Island already make close to $8 an hour, but cited a living-wage calculator developed by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor that suggests an adult with one child would need to make $20.64 an hour working full time in the Warwick area “just to afford the basics.”

“If we made $15 we wouldn’t have to choose between food or rent or gas,” said Gesterling in the email. “It’s not going to make us rich but it’s going to help us survive.”

At the time of this article’s posting, representatives from Rhode Island Jobs with Justice had not returned calls requesting further details about the whether this rally will lead to a broader statewide campaign.

The Wendy’s manager on duty at the 771 Warwick Ave. location declined to comment on the rally, and representatives from the Wendy’s corporate office had not returned calls requesting comment at the time of this article’s posting.

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