Yes, they’re striking for an increase in wages, but it’s not just about that, and the issue goes beyond conditions at fast-food chains.
On Wednesday, April 15, Johaunna Cromer will be walking off her job along with other Asheville fast-food workers who are mobilizing through the national Fight for 15 movement, which aims to send a message: Fast-food workers should earn a living wage in America and be treated better on the job.
Cromer, a single mother who has participated in four similar strikes in the Southeast, has worked at a fast-food franchise in Asheville for eight months. She says she enjoys the friendly customers and her co-workers but that the policies at her job make it difficult for this single mother to handle family matters.
The telephone policy at her restaurant states that no employees can use their telephones while on the clock, says Cromer. In January, her 8-year-old son had a seizure while at school, and Cromer was unreachable at work, even though the school called the restaurant’s phone number as well. Finally, the school sent someone to her workplace to get a message through. The experience, she says, left a lasting impression.
“They were calling for two hours,” she said. “It was very frustrating.”
Through the Fight for 15 movement, fast-food workers in 200 cities will be joined by adjunct college professors as well as home care, child care, airport, industrial laundry and Walmart workers at a rally that is being called by Fight For 15 “the most widespread mobilization ever by U.S. workers seeking higher pay.”
One of the core beliefs of the Fight for 15 movement is that fast food is no longer a stepping-stone to a larger career but a career in itself for millions of workers. Cromer said she believes that working 40 hours per week should earn her and other fast-food workers a wage on which they can live and feed their families.
“This is very intense work. You are taking orders from customers, stocking shelves, running back to help cooks, carrying boxes of fries — all with very little time — and keeping customers happy,” she says. “I’ve grown to respect fast-food workers — they deserve it.”
Cromer says finding a job outside the fast-food industry is easier said than done. She has an educational background in psychology and comes from California.
“The rules are different here. The laws are different. By the time you take the time to look and take the time to interview, you’re out two weeks of wages,” she says.
Those earning the $7.25 per hour that Cromer receives may only be surviving on the thinnest of margins, especially in Asheville. McDonald’s has said that franchisees are responsible for wage increases according to job level and local and federal laws. Cromer says that isn’t good enough.
“I’ve watched it firsthand here — the food, the cost of housing, it’s going up,” she says. “It’s hard. We just want to be treated like human beings and given what we deserve. Right now it’s very stressful and kind of degrading.”
The Asheville Fight for 15 rally will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 15, at 71 Hendersonville Road.