McDonald’s Worker Isn’t Letting Age Stop Him Fighting For a Fair Wage
The media is full of stories about fast food workers who are fighting to earn a fair living wage. It has been illustrated over and over again that our fast food workers are no longer college kids looking to earn some beer money, but instead they are adults looking to earn a living to run their household or to feed their children. Jobs in the fast food industry are becoming a career rather than a stop gap for many in the American workforce. However, if we really want a poster boy for how unfairly full time fast food workers are being treated then there can be no better fit than 81 year old McDonald’s worker Jose Carillo.
Jose Carillo is one of hundreds of people employed in the fast food industry who are actively fighting to have their hourly wage raised to $15 per hour, claiming that this is a realistic minimum wage for those looking to earn a living wage. Mr Castillo is currently earning $8.10 per hour working as a maintenance man in McDonald’s and says that he cannot afford to retire despite being 81 years old. Surprisingly, Castillo is one of the more highly paid workers in the fast food industry where the average hourly wage is around $7.25.
Carillo is a Peruvian immigrant who came to New York in 1997 with his late wife and he is now an American citizen. He has worked for the Midtown Manhattan branch of McDonald’s for 10 years as a maintenance worker had has only had a 10 cent raise in that time. He currently works a three day week bringing home $155 and cannot afford to retire. “Although I live alone, what I make is not enough; the cost of living keeps rising,” says Carillo.
Luckily for 81 year old Carillo, who is affectionately known as Don Jose by his younger co-workers, he is still strong and healthy despite his advancing years. Since the beginning of the fight for a fairer minimum wage in 2012, Castillo has been out on strike 6 times to support the cause. He says that he is willing to do whatever it takes to help ensure that the 4 million people employed by the fast food industry in American are paid a $15 per hour minimum wage and earn the right to join a union to protect their rights. Carillo is just one of many fast food workers who believe their employers, who include Wendy’s, KFC, Burger King and McDonald’s are taking unfair advantage of them.
Recently, Castillo was asked to speak at his church, the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, and he told the congregation of the struggles he and his co-workers in the fast food industry face if they are to make ends meet. “If it wasn’t for food stamps and Medicare I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself,” Castillo told the congregation. The church’s senior pastor Rev. Michael Walrond Jr. added that “it is not fair for a $20 billion industry to pay workers poverty wages”. Castillo was speaking at the first of a series of ‘pray-ins’ being organised by local churches including Riverside Church, the Collegiate Church in the East Village, Bronx Christian Fellowship, Judson Memorial Church, St. Mark’s in the Bowery Episcopal Church and New Hope Christian Fellowship Church.
Fast Food Worker’s Unite
The fair pay for fast food workers debate is by no means a new one. However, in the past year it has steadily grown and become much more vocal with workers taking more and more direct action. A growing number of disgruntled workers are developing what can only be described as a militant approach to the fight for fairer pay and they seem increasingly willing to risk being arrested. This is illustrated by the fact that during a recent shareholders meeting for McDonald’s 101 workers from across the United States were arrested during one of the largest ever protests against a fast food chain. Just a couple of months later over one thousand fast food workers met in Chicago at the first national convention, where the workers decided by majority vote to strike and agreed to take any action necessary to achieve their target of getting the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour. Jose Carillo was among them. “I am willing to go as far as necessary,” said Carillo. “Fifteen dollars would be a game changer, especially for younger workers raising a family. What they are being paid now is a crime.”
Jose Carillo is an inspiration to fast food workers everywhere. He is of course fighting for his own benefit, but he also knows that he is helping to change the future for younger generations which will impact their lives even more that it will his own. Regardless of which side of the debate you stand on you have to applaud his efforts and his integrity.