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Carlos Hernandez is a Subway worker who helped lead the fast food strikes this summer to demand that the huge, profitable fast food industry treat their workers with respect.

Now Subway has fired him — supposedly over a 66¢ cookie.

Federal charges have been filed alleging that Carlos was actually fired in retaliation for his role as a leader in the fast food workers movement.

Everyone should have the right to speak out for a better life — that’s why workers have a legal right to strike. It’s unacceptable that instead of listening to workers and considering their concerns, Subway fired a leader in the fast food workers movement and is trying to intimidate other workers from speaking out.

Support Carlos & the fast food workers movement: BOYCOTT SUBWAY until he gets his job back.

Thousands of fast-food workers have joined a nationwide wave of strikes for better pay and the right to organize. Almost every one of these workers went back to work without incident. Why? Because it’s illegal to fire someone for striking — and because the law has been backed up by overwhelming community support.

Carlos is a true leader who helped organize the May 30th and August 29th strikes.

He spread the word to his co-workers, and successfully encouraged many to join him on strike, forcing several stores to close. He joined strikelines outside the store where he works, and even spoke out at the rallies which culminated both Seattle fast food strikes.

His managers repeatedly tried to intimidate him into quieting down, but Carlos continued to stand up for what he believed in: better pay & working conditions for fast food workers like him.

Carlos knew that speaking out could be a risk, but spoke out anyway because he thought it was important to be there for his coworkers and for his community.  

Now it’s time for all of use — workers, customers, and community — to be there for Carlos too.

Everyone should have the right to speak out for a better life. It’s unacceptable that instead of listening to workers and considering their concerns, Subway has chosen to fire Carlos.
Don’t shop at Subway until they commit to respect the law and give Carlos his job back.

Our dispute is with Subway. We are not asking anyone to boycott a neutral employer.

Discuss
You: Fast food chain owners
Me: Seattle worker who struck against poverty-wage jobs

When we saw each other from opposite sides of the strikelines that spread across Seattle fast food outlets on May 30th, there was this look in your eye that I’m never going to forget. Suddenly, you could see that your employees weren’t just playthings for you to bat around - we were human beings rising up together to demand something better.

Are you still thinking about that day as much as I am? Because now that we both know I’m capable of something different than playing the silent and obedient role you always want me to play, I bet you’re going as crazy as I am wondering when something even bigger is going to pop up next.

I think it’s about time we talked. But not just me, I’m into a group thing. Because I know that one of your little secrets is that when you look at me and my co-workers together, you pay a whole lot more notice and show me a whole lot more respect than when it’s just me & you.

And it may not be what you’re into right now, but if you pay me a better wage, it’ll seriously stimulate the economy, and you know you love that kind of stimulus.

So drop us a line on Facebook at Good Jobs Seattle. We’d love to see you share the stimulation and get our economy hooked up with some more good jobs.

Discuss

“I never used to understand my father,” Frank said into the microphone. “He was always angry, cold, you know? It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized why. He was always working and it was killing him.”

Frank looked around the full room at Doc Maynard’s Bar and gripped the microphone.

“He worked jobs like I do,” he said. “They don’t pay anything, barely anything and you have to work all the time just to make ends meet. It’s not right and we have to do something about it. I don’t want to turn out like he was in my childhood always tired, never smiling. I do want a family someday, but I can’t do that to them.”

Frank works at a fast food company. He is paid poverty wages and lives in a small apartment. He has had to cut all his living expenses to the bone as his job pays him so little. He was sharing his story to a room full of community members who had all come out to show their support for workers in the crowded, darkened stage room of Doc Maynard’s, a downtown Seattle bar and tourist attraction.

“I want to be able to save money, go see a movie once in a while,” he said. “Sometimes I have to skip meals. How am I supposed to think about going back to school or anything like that? I just want to make enough to be happy.”

Workers across the country are starting to stand up. A few months ago, fast food workers from New York City walked off the job in a first of its kind one day strike. The facts are that 7 out of the 10 fastest growing jobs in the United States are low wage jobs.

All workers deserve respect.

There is no reason why these jobs need to pay so little or have such unpredictable and changeable hours.

It isn’t an isolated case that workers are standing up. The LA Times article “Fast-food workers walk out in N.Y. amid rising U.S. labor unrest” said:

“Those actions (New York Fast Food Strikes) follow a period of relative quiet on the labor front, broken by the Chicago teacher’s strike earlier this year and a strike by employees of Hostess Brands….more walkouts are likely to come.”

Workers are stepping out to demand that they receive fair wages and respect on the workplace all across the country.

Sarah Jaffe, an independent journalist, was the MC for the event. She has written extensively about labor issues, workers’ rights and the Occupy Movement. She had also just written about the New York strike calling it “The McJobs Strike Back.” She welcomed the audience to the event and introduced the other speakers.

“I’ve never been a part of something like this,” she said standing on the stage. “But, I’m inspired by these workers who are telling it like it is. There’s something going on in this country and workers are making it happen. Let’s hear from them now.”

The other workers shared their stores while sitting on an elevated stage with microphones pinned to their shirts or blouses. They were from different jobs and different workplaces, but they all had something in common. They were taking action to change their workplaces for the better. They all wanted better wages and better treatment.

“I’m getting married,” Spencer said holding the microphone in a firm grip and looking out at the audience. “I don’t know how we are going to make it because I am paid such low wages. We can’t even think of starting a family. We wouldn’t be able to afford it. That’s why I’m doing something about it. My co-workers and I have formed a Union. We’re standing up together.”

Spencer works for a low wage airport contractor at Sea-Tac Airport. He handles the baggage driving the trucks and loading and unloading the luggage of Alaska Airlines’ passengers. It is fast paced; harried and thankless work and for all their efforts they are paid poverty wages.

“We marched on our managers,” Spencer said. “Too many of us have been working scared—scared for our safety, scared of our bills, scared of saying anything. Not anymore. We need better wages and a safer workplace. And we are going to make it happen.”

Pancho, speaking through a translator, talked about his work in a fast food restaurant. He has been working at the same location doing the same work for nearly three years and he hasn’t seen his wages go up except when minimum wage has.

“I work hard,” he said becoming more animated as he clutched the microphone. “I’m taking care of my family back in Mexico and this pay; it just doesn’t. I have two daughters and I’m worried about them.”

Pancho talked about how when he first got hired at the job the managers told him that if he increased his skills and undertook on the job training they would increase his wages. He has learned new skills, mastering the machines, learning food prep skills and even taking more responsibility at work across different job types. His pay hasn’t risen.

“I learned all the things they wanted me to learn,” he said. “I learned to cook, to clean, to work the machines. I do the work of two people and I still make minimum wage.”

He paused to let the translator catch up.

“I’ve been on the job for three years,” he said. “This industry just cuts corners. They don’t hire enough people; they don’t pay enough wages and I have to do something about it.”

Wilton is a fast food worker from New York. He took place in the historic fast food worker strike a month before. He joined hundreds of other workers taking their message to the street and he came out to Seattle to give encouragement to workers who are fed up with low wages and poor treatment.

“I’m a cook,” he said. “I’m a good cook. People say I’m the best one there. But, I can’t survive on the paychecks they give me. I went on strike for my family. I deserve better pay—a living wage.”

Wilton looked around the stage.

“I work seven days a week,” he said. “I have to just to make enough to make it, but it still is not enough. I don’t get to see my family or hug my children. I want a living wage so that I don’t have to work seven days a week. That’s why I went on strike. That’s why I’m out here. Thank you.”

A recent study from the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank found that minimum wage increases raise incomes and increase consumer spending.  The authors examine 23 years of household spending data and find that for every dollar increase for a minimum wage worker results in $2,800 in new consumer spending by his or her household over the following year.

When workers get paid more they are much more likely to turn around and put that money back into the community, lifting up local businesses and supporting other jobs.

It just makes sense.

Brittany took a deep breath and grabbed the microphone.

“I’m Brittany,” she said. “I work at Walmart. I’m a single mom and I take care of my two year old son. Because of Walmart’s pay and hours I’m still living at home. I want to move on.”

She paused looking around the room. The audience clapped encouraging her to continue.

“I used to get decent hours,” she said. “I mean the pay was always bad, but the hours were decent. But, they’ve been cutting hours so much and trying to make excuses. They say that sales are down, but it’s not true. Stop making excuses Walmart. You just don’t want to pay us a decent wage.”

She shook her head.

“They keep cutting hours and then hire people,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense, ya know? So I joined OUR Walmart, a group of associates who are working together to make Walmart pay us a decent wage and give us enough hours.”

Brittany stopped and smiled.

“I want to be a kindergarten teacher someday,” she said. “I just want decent pay and pretty good hours so I can make those plans come true. I don’t want to be rich or anything, I just want enough so I can take the next step.”

Discuss
Hosted by noted journalist Sarah Jaffe, a leading writer and commentator on social movements and low-wage work, "On the Edge" is a chance to hear real stories from the lives of poverty-wage workers who are rising up from the edge of our economy to bring their experiences squarely to the center of public debate about our economic future.

From airport workers here at Sea-Tac to fast food workers in New York to Walmart workers across the country — in the past 6 months, poverty-wage workers have been rising up to demand good jobs & better opportunities with an intensity and power that haven't been seen in decades.

These are their stories.

Seating is limited. Join the event here: Poverty-Wage Story Slam to reserve a ticket or call 206-486-9896

May 2nd, Thursday, 5:45pm
Doc Maynards
610 1st Avenue in Pioneer Square
Seattle, WA

Discuss

There are thousands of poverty-wage jobs at Sea-Tac Airport and the workers, who work for contractor companies hired by Alaska Airlines, have had enough.

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