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Fast Food Workers Strike in Seven Cities

Fast Food Workers Strike in Seven Cities


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Over the past couple weeks, fast food workers across the country have been holding walkouts and rallies across the nation. Thousands of employees in New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Missouri, and Flint, Michigan held one-day strikes on July 29th, according to The New York Times. The low-wage employees, who work for fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, and Burger King, and more, continue to protest for a $15 per hour salary and the right to form a union.

This is not the first fast food strike we’ve seen. Fast Food Forward, a labor campaign, has been supporting New York City fast food employees since last November, urging people to sign a petition for higher wages and more rights, like the right unionize. The fast food industry makes $200 billion per year, according to the movement, and workers make an average of $11,000 per year, which is less than half the amount that most fast food CEO’s make on a daily basis.

Organizations such as New York Communities for Change, Jobs with Justice, Action Now, and the Service Employees International Union have been aiding the labor campaign, according to Chicago Tribune.

U.S. fast food workers make an average of $9.02 per hour, and they are asking for an increase in wages to $15 per hour. This is more than double the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25. “When you make minimum wage, you don’t have a heck of a lot to lose by speaking out,” said McDonald’s employee Kareem Starks told Milwaukee Courier. “But remaining silent is not an option because it’s nearly impossible to survive on $7.25 an hour.”

In an open letter, over a hundred economists signed the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute’s letter, “Economists in Support of a $10.50 U.S. Minimum Wage.” The letter claimed that by raising the price of the Big Mac from $4.00 to $4.05, McDonald’s could pay for half of the business cost increase of raising the minimum wage to $10.50.

“If a worker today is employed full time for a full 52-week year at a minimum wage job today, she or he is making $15,080. This is 19 percent below the official poverty line for a family of three,” the letter also states. “Raising the minimum wage to $10.50 would deliver much needed living standard improvements to 45 million U.S. workers and their families.”

Not everyone supports the fast food strikes. Scott DeFife, the executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association, told The New York Times that the strikes are “an effort to demonize the entire industry in order to make some organizing and political points,” adding that only a small portion of restaurant jobs pay minimum wage, and most of those jobs are taken by employees under 25 years old.

DeFife also told NOLA.com that increasing wages would make it more difficult for the private sector to create jobs, “especially those typically filled by first-time workers and teens.”

In the Political Economy Research Institute’s letter, on the other hand, economists argue that “only 9.3 percent of the workers who would benefit from this [$10.50] minimum wage increase are teenagers; i.e., 90.7 percent are adults.” The average age for fast food workers is 32 years old, they wrote, and the employees have been working in the industry for an average of fourteen years.

But raising wages is not that simple. Michael Saltsman, a research director at the Economic Research Institute, referred to a study showing that raising the minimum wage can lead to reduced hours and cut jobs, Boston Globe reported.

It is difficult to unionize and get higher wages, but the recent strikes bring these issues to the forefront. “No one wants to work for $7.25 an hour… [and] have a job with no benefits,” Brooklyn clergyman and City Council candidate Kristen John Foy told Forbes.com. “These are not ignorant people. If they could, they would be doing something more rewarding and fulfilling and better compensated than flipping burgers.”


Fast-food workers strike nationwide in protest against wages

Aug. 29, 2013: Protesters display placards outside a Burger King fast food restaurant in Boston. The protest was one of several planned in Boston Thursday in what organizers say are similar walkouts planned in dozens of cities to push chains such as McDonald's, Taco Bell and Wendy's to pay workers more. (AP/Boston Herald)

July 29, 2013: In this file photo, demonstrators supporting fast food workers protest outside a McDonald's as they demand higher wages and the right to form a union without retaliation in New York's Union Square. On Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, organizers say thousands of workers are set to stage walkouts in at least 50 cities around the country, part of a push to intensify the spotlight on the wages paid by chains such as McDonalds, Taco Bell and Wendys. (AP)

Hundreds of protesters across the US marched Thursday to demand higher wages for fast-food workers, forcing the closure of one McDonald's in Detroit after its employees walked out.

The protests are underway in cities including New York, Boston and Chicago, and organizers are expecting the biggest national walkouts yet.

A McDonald's restaurant in Detroit closed Thursday morning as workers and protesters chanted "hey hey, ho ho, $7.40's got to go," outside, WJBK reports.

In New York, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined about 300 to 400 protesters in a march before flooding inside a McDonald's near the Empire State Building on Thursday morning. Shortly after the demonstration, however, the restaurant seemed to be operating normally and a few customers said they hadn't heard of the movement. The same was true at a McDonald's a few blocks away.

The lack of awareness among some illustrates the challenge workers face. Participating workers, who are asking for $15 an hour, still represent a tiny fraction of the industry. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which works out to about $15,000 a year for full-time employees.

The movement comes amid calls from the White House, some members of Congress and economists to hike the federal minimum wage. But most proposals seek a far more modest increase than the one workers are asking for, with President Barack Obama wanting to boost it to $9 an hour.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Associate Press, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said the strikes are another sign of the need to raise the minimum wage for all workers. He compared the protests to the demands of demonstrators in the 1963 March on Washington, who sought a national minimum wage to give workers better living standards.

"For all too many people working minimum wage jobs, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity are feeling further and further apart," said Perez, who's taking a lead role in Obama's push to boost the minimum wage.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million works in health care, janitorial and other industries, has been providing financial support and training for local organizers around the country.

Organizers say the strikes will hit more than 50 cities on Thursday, following a series of strikes that began last November in New York City. The biggest effort so far was over the summer when about 2,200 of the country's millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities.

Ryan Carter, a 29-year-old who was walking out of the McDonald's where workers demonstrated on Thursday, said he "absolutely" supported workers demand for higher wages.

"They work harder than the billionaires in this city," he said. But Carter, who was holding a cup of the chain's coffee he bought for $1, said he didn't plan to stop his regular trips to McDonald's.

A few dozen people gathered along the street outside a McDonald's in Las Vegas, chanting and carrying signs that read "Strike for a living wage" and "Huelga por $15," Spanish for "Strike for $15." But an employee at the restaurants said it stayed open for business throughout the demonstration.

The latest protests follow a series of strikes that began last November in New York City. The biggest effort so far was over the summer when about 2,200 of the country's millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities.

McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. say they don't make decisions about pay for the independent franchisees that operate the majority of their U.S. restaurants. At restaurants that McDonald's owns, the company said, any move to raise entry-level pay would raise overall costs and lead to higher menu prices.

"We respect our employees' rights to voice their opinions. Employees who participate in these activities and return to work are welcomed back and scheduled to work their regular shifts as usual," the company said.

It also noted that the protests didn't give an accurate picture of what it means to work at McDonald's. The company said it provides professional development for interested employees.

Wendy's said in statement that it was "proud to provide a place where thousands of people, who come to us asking for a job, can enter the workforce at a starting wage, gain skills and advance with us or move on to something else."

Starbucks spokesman Zack Huston said the strikes have not affected the company's stores. He noted that Starbucks employees earn "competitive wages" and affordable health care that other retailers do not provide for part-time workers.

Subway and Yum Brands Inc., which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, did not respond to a request for comment.

Even though they're not part of unions, fast-food workers who take part in strikes are generally protected from being fired or having employers retaliate against them. Federal labor law gives all workers the right to engage in "protected concerted activities" to complain about wages, working conditions or other terms of employment.

"It's always been understood that people who fall under this concerted activity umbrella are protected as long as they are protesting not only on their own behalf but on behalf of others as well," said Robert Kaiser, a St. Louis labor law attorney.


July 29, 2013

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Reuters/Mike Blake

Starting today, workers in seven cities will begin the largest fast food worker mobilization in US history. Staff at chains including McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Wendy’s will reportedly walk out in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City and Flint, Michigan.

Workers are calling on fast food restaurants to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Currently, the average pay in New York is $8.25 per hour and the minimum wage is $7.25.

&ldquoI might be doing the work of three people&rdquo due to under-staffing, McDonald&rsquos employee Kareem Starks told Salon’s Josh Eidelson, &ldquobut still getting paid one wage.&rdquo Starks, a 30-year-old former Parks Department employee, said it&rsquos &ldquobeen hard trying to live off the minimum wage, $7.25, and support my two kids plus pay rent.&rdquo

Workers hope to draw attention to a range of issues from low wages to wage theft to McDonald’s recently released budget calculator that insulted and angered many employees struggling to survive on fast food wages.

Jonathan Westin, who directs New York&rsquos Fast Food Forward campaign, told Salon he doubts that national TV outlets would have lingered on the budget story if workers hadn&rsquot forced a debate about the industry by repeatedly going on strike. &ldquoThe more and more workers continue to take action and continue to publicize their fight,&rdquo said Westin, &ldquothe more and more it starts to get at the fast food industry&rsquos biggest asset, which is their name brand. And I think that&rsquos what we&rsquore beginning to see in a very real way.&rdquo

The action is being organized by Fast Food Forward, a movement of employees from fast food outliers in New York City focused on raising wages and increasing workers’ rights.

The group released the following statement:

In America, people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, childcare and transportation. While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers are barely getting by&mdashmany are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job. Raising pay for fast food workers will benefit workers and strengthen the overall economy.

The website says that the $11,000 average annual salary of fast food workers in New York compares to a $25,000 average daily salary of fast food firm chief executives.

Westin told New York radio station 1010 WINS that fast food workers are not paid a living wage despite having to raise families.

“A lot of the workers are living in poverty, you know, not being able to afford to put food on the table or take the train to work,” he said. “The workers are striking over the fact that they can’t continue to maintain their families on the wages they’re being paid in the fast food industry.”

The campaign to raise the minimum wage in New York City comes at a time of increasing poverty and public housing cuts.

A network of local community groups, clergy and unions, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are backing the strike.

&ldquoSEIU members, like all service-sector workers, are worse off when large fast-food and retail companies are able to hold down wages and push benefit standards for working people,&rdquo Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, told The Washington Post.

Robert Wilson Jr., 25, who works at a McDonald&rsquos in downtown Chicago, told The Washington Post he makes $8.60 a hour after seven years on the job. He said a previous walkout in April earned workers some &ldquosmall victories,&rdquo including more hours and small raises.

&ldquoI&rsquom not really concerned about losing my job,&rdquo Wilson said. &ldquoIf I don&rsquot do anything, I am in a lose-lose situation. I can still get fired at any time.&rdquo

Thus far, some of the country’s largest businesses have rejected the idea of raising wages. This month, Walmart threatened to freeze plans to build three stories in Washington and reevalute three stores already under construction after the DC Council passed a bill requiring large retailers to pay its workers a “living wage” of at least $12.50 an hour.

&ldquoI know you&rsquore tired of suffering,&rdquo KFC employee Naquasia LeGrand told fellow workers gathered with clergy and politicians at a rally last Wednesday announcing that New York City worker-activists had voted to strike this week. &ldquoI don&rsquot want to see the next generation suffering and suffering. I don&rsquot want my kids suffering. I want to make sure they have a better future than I do.&rdquo Looking out on a crowd of about 150 at the entrance to Brooklyn&rsquos Prospect Park, LeGrand added, &ldquoSo if I want that to happen, I need you guys to stand with me just as long as I&rsquom standing with you.&rdquo

Last week, California warehouse workers who move Walmart baggage went on strike, becoming the latest participants in a wave of Walmart supply chain strikes.


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Similar tactics around the country have kept post-strike retaliation to a minimum. In most cases, community supporters deliver letters in advance telling management that workers are going on strike and why, he said.

St. Louis workers, some of whom were already involved in Jobs with Justice campaigns to rein in payday lending and raise the minimum wage, traveled as a group to Chicago for the strikes there and got inspired, said Rafanan. He anticipates a national meeting of workers this summer.

WHERE’S THE LEVERAGE?

Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago boasts that it includes workers at more than 100 different employers in fast food and retail. Around 300 struck April 24, mostly from downtown businesses.

With such an assortment of employers, the effort seems aimed at organizing low-wage workers not into a union but into a force that could extract changes from local government.

“The relative power this workforce has over individual employers is going to be minimal,” said Bill Fletcher, Jr., chair of the new National Retail Justice Alliance, a think tank and advocacy group that gets some support from the Food and Commercial Workers. “But the power this workforce has on a citywide level, in terms of influencing city governments, could be very disruptive.”

A boost to the city minimum wage, or a city ordinance requiring paid sick leave, would level the playing field for employers: they couldn’t argue that paying workers more would disadvantage them versus their competition.

Workers could understand and get behind “a rational, compelling strategy that is moving towards citywide standards,” said Fletcher, a former AFL-CIO education director.

Besides minimum wage increases, such efforts might include a requirement that part-timers get regular schedules or, Fletcher suggested, “just cause” standard for firing. Just cause would help all workers stand up for themselves—not just those trying to unionize.

Small victories accumulate. In New York, the campaign commissioned a survey of 500 fast food workers, finding that 84 percent had experienced some form of wage theft. The state’s attorney general has launched an investigation.

And a week after the St. Louis strikes, Aldridge’s boss, the one with the “three wrong sandwiches” sign, was fired for mistreating workers.

LOW-WAGE ECONOMY

In organizing Walmart and fast food outlets, unions are following the jobs. While only 21 percent of jobs lost in the recession were in low-paid occupations, 58 percent of the jobs created recently have been, according to a National Employment Law Project report last year.

And since the recession officially “ended,” the incomes of the top 1% have grown 11.2 percent, while the 99%’s incomes shrank 0.4 percent, according to Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez.

Like striking Walmart workers, fast food organizers frame their demand for higher pay as a way to boost the overall economy, putting more money in workers’ hands to spend on goods and services.

SEIU keeps its cards close, but one certain element of its plan is agitation to raise the minimum wage, which would help the union’s janitor and security-guard members, too.

“If the objective is really to raise the minimum wage [legislatively], it’s important that workers know that that’s what they’re fighting for,” said Fletcher.

Flanked by fast food workers from the campaign, California Representative George Miller and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin introduced bills March 5 to gradually raise the federal minimum from $7.25 to $10.10. The House acted with uncharacteristic speed, killing the idea 10 days later, 233-184, when it was attached to another bill.

The situation is only slightly less grim in the states. In the wake of Walmart and fast food strikes last fall, the New York legislature agreed to slowly increase the state minimum, from $7.25 to $9 by 2016, but it won’t be indexed to inflation.

A citizen initiative to raise Missouri’s minimum by $1 was blocked from the ballot last year by business interests, and a proposal in Illinois was recently diluted to exclude tipped workers.

Fast food strikers are unapologetically demanding $15 an hour, a bold figure that is now roughly the median annual wage in the U.S. “Fifteen and a union,” strikers chanted outside a Wendy’s in Brooklyn April 4.

In Detroit, when managers at an eastside McDonald’s called in other employees to fill strikers’ shifts, they struck, too, keeping the store closed.

While buoyed by the strikers’ energy and leadership, campaign observers sound a cautionary note. Some say they hope the union will commit sustained resources, and not leave workers in the lurch if legislative goals aren’t immediately met.

And they worry that organizers aren’t providing a sustainable organizing home beyond the workplace—particularly important in the high-turnover restaurant industry. The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has created such worker centers in several cities.

“If anybody says they have the answers, they’re probably wrong,” said Rafanan of the uncharted waters ahead. “But our parents and grandparents figured it out, and we will, too.”


All In agenda: Fast food workers strike in cities nationwide

Tonight on All In with Chris Hayes: After three months of weekly demonstrations, the final protest against North Carolina's right-wing legislative agenda was held Monday. Led by the NAACP, the "Moral Monday" protesters marked the closing of a momentous legislative session with a march and "Mass Social Justice Interfaith Rally." The demonstrators have fought back against a wide range of Republican bills, including abortion restrictions attached to a motorcycle safety law and stricter voter ID regulations, both of which passed last week. Meanwhile, at the White House, President Obama met with civil rights leaders and elected officials Monday afternoon about protecting voting rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision striking down the Voting Rights Act. Chris Hayes will talk with Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and one of the 926 protesters who were arrested over the course of the Moral Monday rallies, Rep. Larry Hall, Democratic Leader in the North Carolina House of Representatives, and North Carolina State Senator Angela Bryant about what's next in the fight for equal rights.

Also Monday, hours after holding mass for three million people in Brazil, Pope Francis spoke candidly about his acceptance of gay members of the clergy. "If someone is gay," the pope said during a press conference held en route to Rome, "and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" Tom Perriello, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Counselor for Policy to the Center for American Progress, will join Chris Hayes to discuss the pope's message of tolerance.

Later, Chris Hayes will delve into the feud between Senator Rand Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, back in the spotlight again with Paul's comments on Sunday about Christie's priorities on government spending. According to Senator Paul, Christie's "gimme, gimme, gimme - give me all my Sandy money now," attitude on federal funding after last year's hurricane, along with his opposition to spending cuts, are "bankrupting the government" and taking resources from national defense. Matt Welch, Editor in Chief of Reason magazine, will join the table to talk about this rift within the Republican Party.

Plus: Fast food workers went on strike in seven cities Monday in their first organized nationwide protests. Workers in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Missouri, and Flint, Michigan, walked off the job to protest the federal minimum wage and rally support for a raising their pay to $15 an hour. Tsedeye Gebreselasie, staff attorney for the National Employment Law Project, Kareem Starks, a worker at McDonald's in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Gregory Reynoso, a former Domino's delivery driver who was fired for leading a group of his fellow workers on strike and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York will join the conversation.


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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fast food workers will strike for the second time in the past two months on Thursday in an effort to raise America’s minimum wage.

The last strike took place in seven cities. Thursday’s strike will include fast food workers from more than 50 cities across America.

Most think of fast food workers as high school and college students working just a few hours a week, but the reality is most fast food employees are out of school with families, struggling to pay their bills making $7.25 an hour. They are demanding to be paid $15 an hour.

Carmen Iverson, who works at McDonald’s and earns $7.35 an hour, said she struggles to pay her bills and hopes by striking, the minimum wage will be raised.

“It’s real tough because I have to choose between [paying] bills or clothes for [my kids],” she said.

One University of Kansas City Missouri economics professor thinks large corporations can afford to pay a higher minimum wage.

“Will they be profitable at $15 an hour? I haven’t seen any empirical evidence that says they wouldn’t be,” said John Henry, UMKC professor. “It’s just that their profits would be less, so yes, $15 is a reasonable number.”

Henry added it is a social justice issue and believes fast food workers have good cause to stand up and fight for higher wages.

Gina Chiara, spokesperson for the Stand Up Kansas City campaign agrees.

“McDonald’s CEO last year made $13 million and they made almost $6 billion in profits, $9 billion in revenues, so we believe that these corporations can afford to pay their employees what is a living wage,” Chiara said. “Studies have shown that here in Kansas City, a mom and one child should be making $17.21 an hour just to cover the basic necessities of life and these workers are not able to come close to that on minimum wage.”


Fast Food Strikes Have Workers Walking Out In Seven Cities

Fast food strikes are sweeping seven cities Monday morning as thousands of workers walked off their jobs. Some say this may be the largest of such labor strikes in US history.

Striking workers plan to demonstrate for four days. Bloomberg News says the strikers are demanding $15 per hour in pay. Fast food workers are also asking to be able to form a union without facing retaliation from management.

Those participating include workers from McDonald's, Burger King, Domino's Pizza, and Subway.

Several political groups have helped organize the strikes, including New York Communities For Change, Action Now, Jobs With Justice, and the Service Employees International Union.

These are not the first fast food strikes in the US this year. In April a number of retail and fast food workers demonstrated for higher wages. That saw workers from Macy's and Victoria's Secret joining workers from restaurants like KFC and McDonald's. These fast food strikes lead to few changes, however.

McDonald's CEO Don Thompson has defended their wage paying practices. Thompson says that McDonald's is an "above minimum-wage employer." He and others point to the fact that food service is one of the most rapidly expanding areas in the US economy, even in the current economic downturn.

Salon says that despite this, those on strike say they are often asked to do "the work of three people" but get paid a single wage. Under-staffing is responsible for this, they explain. Others say they are simply unable to live on a $7.25 an hour minimum-wage.

Attempts in recent years to raise the federal minimum-wage from $7.25 to $9 in Congress have had no success.

Cities participating in the fast food strikes this week include New York City, Detroit and Flint, Michigan, St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, Milwaukee, and Chicago.

The video clip below shows some of the fast food strikes from earlier this year and some of the reactions of customers to the workers' demands. What do you think? Should these workers get a pay increase?


Fast Food Workers: ‘We Can’t Survive on $7.25’

Fast food workers in seven US cities are walking off the job this week in what organizers say is the largest strike in the industry’s history.

The wave of protests began Monday in New York City, where workers earning as little as the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour — in a town where the average rent is over $3,000 a month — demanded $15 per hour and the right to organize.

The average yearly salary of fast food workers in New York City is $11,000, according to protest organizers Fast Food Forward. The group Wider Opportunities for Women estimates that a single mother with two children needs a minimum of $6,376 per month to survive in the Big Apple.

As a result of this discrepancy, many fast food workers rely on government services like Medicaid and food stamps.

“The fact is, we are subsidizing their business model,” says Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus and attended the rally in Manhattan to show support for the workers. Ellison says the minimum wage is kept down by lobbyists who spend industry money to buy favorable legislation. He points out that the minimum wage, in real dollars, is lower now than it was in 1968.

Fast food chains can afford to pay their workers more (despite an ad campaign launched in response to the protests suggesting otherwise). A group of economists in support of a $10.50 minimum wage say that McDonald’s could cover half the cost of such an increase by raising the cost of a Big Mac from $4.00 to $4.05.

Ellison, who supports increasing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation and executive pay, says that while “miracles happen,” with Congressional Republicans fighting against basics like food stamps and healthcare, consumers who support higher wages for fast food workers should put pressure on the industry by voting with their dollars.

“They need to say, if you’re not paying a livable wage, we’re not going in there,” he said.

Video producer: Lauren Feeney. Camera: Cameron Hickey.

Correction: An earlier version of this post included a link to a Huffington Post article claiming that McDonald’s could double the salaries of all employees by raising the cost of a Big Mac by 68 cents. That article was later debunked by The Columbia Journalism Review and retracted by The Huffington Post.


In New Wave of Walkouts, Fast-Food Strikers Gain Momentum

CNBC coverage of a walkout by thousands of restaurant employees who are calling for a major increase in the minimum wage.

Publish Date August 29, 2013.

As a wave of one-day walkouts by fast-food workers gains momentum in a push for a $15 hourly wage, the movement has been notable both for the prominence of young faces and for the audacity of their demand.

On Thursday, the protests involved workers at nearly 1,000 restaurants in more than 50 cities, organizers said, spreading to areas of the South and West including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Raleigh, N.C.

The Service Employees International Union has provided financial support to the one-day walkouts since they began a month ago at restaurants of McDonald’s, Burger King and other chains in seven cities. Many and perhaps most of the workers have been in their 20s.

Jake Rosenfeld, a sociology professor and labor expert at the University of Washington, said the strikes could elevate the union movement’s standing among younger workers who have grown up in an era when unions have steadily lost membership and power.

“It should reinforce the labor movement as something new and relevant to the young workers of today,” Professor Rosenfeld said. And pointing to the use of the Internet to spread the strike call, he added, “The combination of old and new organizing strategies really seems to have paid off here.”

But even with the attention the strikes have drawn, the big question remains whether the walkouts can achieve any traction on the main demand — the wage increase to $15 an hour in an industry in which many of the 2.3 million fast food workers earn the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Arne Kalleberg, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina and author of the book “Good Jobs, Bad Jobs,” said: “The strikes are an indication of a great frustration that’s been building up over a long time. It reflects the fact that people are really concerned with increasing inequality.”

One such frustrated worker was Roberto Tejada, who earns $8 an hour at a Taco Bell in Los Angeles. “People can’t survive on the minimum wage,” he said. “Nobody who works full time should live in poverty.”

Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez has pointed to the strikes as evidence that the federal minimum wage should be increased. President Obama has proposed a $9 minimum wage, but many Republicans have denounced the idea, saying it would eliminate jobs.

Steve Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association, warned that a raise to $15 an hour would hurt franchisees – and would result in less hiring. “Mandating increased wages would lead to higher prices for consumers, lower foot traffic” and lost jobs, he said.

And a corporate-backed group, the Employment Policies Institute, ran a full-page advertisement in The Wall Street Journal, saying that a $15 wage would mean �wer entry-level jobs and more automated alternatives – even in the kitchen.”

The strike’s organizers have had feverish discussions – including a meeting with academics in Las Vegas – to figure out how to attain their goal. One idea is to persuade city councils to pass a $15-an-hour minimum wage for fast-food workers. Another is not to hit up hard-pressed franchisees for the raises, but instead to get the chains to channel some of the fees they obtain from franchises into higher wages.

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said the expansion of the strikes was helping to persuade government officials and community groups that the demand was not unrealistic.

“It’s moving people to understand that $15 is increasingly reasonable,” she said. “It’s becoming crystal clear to a lot of people that if these workers who earn $9,000 a year could earn $18,000, that could make a big change in their neighborhoods.”

But Professor Kalleberg acknowledged that the chains would not be so easily persuaded.

“You’ll have to put consumer pressure on the companies,” he said. “The consumer is the lever here. I don’t know how about $15. Obama is having a problem getting to $9. I think something in between may be realistic.”

A version of this article appears in print on 08/30/2013, on page B 3 of the NewYork edition with the headline: In New Wave of Walkouts, Fast-Food Strikers Gain Momentum.


Fast-Food Strikes Set For Cities Nationwide

NEW YORK (AP) — Fast-food customers in search of burgers and fries on Thursday might run into striking workers instead.

Organizers say thousands of fast-food workers are set to stage walkouts in dozens of cities around the country, part of a push to get chains such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s to pay workers higher wages.

It’s expected be the largest nationwide strike by fast-food workers, according to organizers. The biggest effort so far was over the summer when about 2,200 of the nation’s millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities.

Thursday’s planned walkouts follow a series of strikes that began last November in New York City, then spread to cities including Chicago, Detroit and Seattle. Workers say they want $15 an hour, which would be about $31,000 a year for full-time employees. That’s more than double the federal minimum wage, which many fast food workers make, of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year.

The move comes amid calls from the White House, some members of Congress and economists to hike the federal minimum wage, which was last raised in 2009. But most proposals seek a far more modest increase than the ones workers are asking for, with President Barack Obama wanting to boost it to $9 an hour.

The push has brought considerable media attention to a staple of the fast-food industry — the so-called “McJobs” that are known for their low pay and limited prospects. But the workers taking part in the strikes still represent a tiny fraction of the broader industry. And it’s not clear if the strikes on Thursday will shut down any restaurants because organizers made their plans public earlier in a call for workers around the country to participate, which gave managers time to adjust their staffing levels. More broadly, it’s not clear how many customers are aware of the movement, with turnout for past strikes relatively low in some cities.

Laila Jennings, a 29-year-old sales associate at T.J. Maxx, was eating at a McDonald’s in New York City this week and said she hadn’t heard of the movement. Still, she said she thinks workers should be paid more. “They work on their feet all day,” Jennings said, adding that $12 to $15 an hour seemed fair.

As it stands, fast-food workers say they can’t live on what they’re paid.

Shaniqua Davis, 20, lives in the Bronx with her boyfriend, who is unemployed, and their 1-year-old daughter. Davis has worked at a McDonald’s a few blocks from her apartment for the past three months, earning $7.25 an hour. Her schedule varies, but she never gets close to 40 hours a week. “Forty? Never. They refuse to let you get to that much hours.”

Her weekly paycheck is $150 or much lower. “One of my paychecks, I only got $71 on there. So I wasn’t able to do much with that. My daughter needs stuff, I need to get stuff for my apartment,” said Davis, who plans to take part in the strike Thursday.

She pays the rent with public assistance but struggles to afford food, diapers, subway and taxi fares, cable TV and other expenses with her paycheck.

“It’s really hard,” she said. “If I didn’t have public assistance to help me out, I think I would have been out on the street already with the money I make at McDonald’s.”

The National Restaurant Association says the low wages reflect the fact that most fast-food workers tend to be younger and have little work experience. Scott DeFife, a spokesman for the group, says that doubling wages would hurt job creation, noting that fast-food chains are already facing higher costs for ingredients, as well as new regulations that will require them to pay more in health care costs.

Still, the actions are striking a chord in some corners.

Robert Reich, a worker advocate and former Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration, said that the struggles of living on low wages is hitting close to home for many because of the weak economic climate.

“More and more, people are aware of someone either in their wider circle of friends or extended family who has fallen on hard times,” Reich said.

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which is providing the fast-food strikes with financial support and training, said the actions in recent months show that fast-food workers can be mobilized, despite the industry’s relatively higher turnover rates and younger age.

“The reality has totally blown through the obstacles,” she said.


Watch the video: πυρόσβεση ΔΙΑΣ τα πραγματικά γεγονότα (July 2022).


Comments:

  1. Maxfield

    a charming sentence

  2. Gukazahn

    I am finite, I apologize, but it all doesn’t come close. Are there other variants?

  3. Kulbert

    I am not going to talk about this topic.



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