NEW YORK - Naquasia LeGrand, who gets paid $7.70 an hour at a KFC in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently got her full-time hours cut by more than a third. She said the reduced pay isn't enough to pay her bills.
Le Grand is joining fast food workers across New York City on Thursday in protest. Organizers are expecting workers at 70 of the city's McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and Yum Brands-owned Pizza Hut and KFC locations to join. The protests are being organized by a coalition of labor, community and clergy groups called Fast Food Forward.
The group is asking employers to pay workers a minimum of $15 an hour, and for the right to organize without retaliation and intimidation. Currently, the median pay for the nearly 50,000 fast food workers in New York City is $9 an hour, or $18,500 a year, according to the New York Labor Department. That's about $4,500 lower than Census Bureau's poverty income threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four.
LeGrand, 21, said she lives with her grandmother, aunt and cousin because she can't afford her own place.
"I have to decide whether to get a MetroCard or eat," she said.
This is not the first time LeGrand is joining a protest.
In November, she joined 50 fast food workers in Manhattan, who walked off their shifts calling for similar rights.
Shortly after, Le Grand got a 20 cent raise, but her hours were cut to 24 from 38 per week. Within five months, she was working only 11.5 hours.
"My manager said she was hiring new workers and that's why my hours were cut," she said. She believes it had to do with her participating in the November protests.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, workers are protected from retaliation as long as they work in concert with at least one other employee to try to change their working conditions. However, they can be permanently replaced if they strike for purely economic reasons.
"Our restaurants in the area are franchise-owned, and we are proud that the franchise system of KFC restaurants provides employment and opportunities for career advancement to thousands of workers in the New York City area," said KFC spokesman Rick Maynard.
Labor experts say there have been scattered attempts to organize over the last several decades, but very little in the fast food industry has stuck. Many say that's because there is a high turnover rate of labor in the industry.