Photos: Austin fast-food workers march for more pay

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on August 29, 2013 at 5:24 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 29 at 5:41 PM

AUSTIN -- Some Austin fast food workers walked off the job in protest Thursday afternoon. They're for the right to form a union and $15 an hour.

Around 12 p.m. in the middle of the lunch rush, some fast food employees rushed out.

"We just told our general manager that we won't be working today. We're on strike," said Greg Lee, a fry cook at Long John Silvers.

Lee marched front and center down Guadalupe with about 100 other fast-food employees and their supporters.

"While these people are making their millions, they're paying us pennies and that's not fair," he said.

Lee says he used to be a cook in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, he moved to Austin and took the job at Long John Silvers.

"I don't receive public assistance because I work. You know what I mean? It's hard," Lee said. "I'd rather work than be a statistic out here."

Lee says making just more than $8 an hour won't cut it since he's got a wife and three children at home.

"You cash your check, and there's a bill that has to be paid," Lee said.

"I'm barely making it," said Maria Ortiz, a shift manager at Long John Silvers. 

Ortiz is a single mom living with her dad since she can't afford her own place.

"Fast-food workers aren't teenagers like they used to be. It's grown adults that need to work because they can't have a career of their own," Ortiz said.

"Fifteen dollars an hour is certainly a stretch for anyone," said Texas Restaurant Association CEO Richie Jackson.

Jackson says the majority of fast-food employees are temporary, part-time and young.

"So what we're really talking about is a starting wage, not a minimum wage or a living wage," Jackson explained.

He claims in this industry hard work will pay off. He says nine out of 10 salaried employees began in an entry-level position.

"I don't think any of us start[ed] in our careers making what we thought we were worth, and I think we would all like to make more than what we make today, but it is a process you go through to improve your value proposition," Jackson explained.

Protest organizers say the average wage for a fast-food worker in Austin is $8.83. They say an adult with one child needs to make $19.56 an hour working full time to afford the basic necessities in Austin.

Strikers used the Twitter account @829strikeAustin and hashtag #829strike to rally support on the social media site.

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