Fast-food strikes set for cities nationwide

Walkout planned Thursday to push chains to pay workers higher wages
Associated Press
Aug 28, 2013

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."

McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. say that they don't make decisions about pay for the independent franchisees that operate the majority of their U.S. restaurants.

For the restaurants it does own, McDonald's said in a statement that pay starts at minimum wage but the range goes higher, depending on the employee's position and experience level. It said that raising entry-level wages would mean higher overall costs, which could result in higher prices on menus.

"That would potentially have a negative impact on employment and business growth in our restaurants, as well as value for our customers," the company said in a statement.

The Wendy's Co. and Yum Brands Inc., which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, did not respond to a request for comment.

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.

 

Comments

brassman

If she can't afford things for her kid why does she have cable tv? I bet she has an iPhone, too.

From the Grave

Why does she have a kid?

From the Grave

I thought these jobs WERE for kids...

God Of Thunder

Go to school, learn a trade and search for a job that pays higher. I can't imagine making that low of a wage living in a high cost of living area like New York or Chicago, but fast food restaurants are entry level positins into the workforce and for the retired.

Eph 2 8-10

AMEN.

Pete

Brutus! Does this mean you are going on strike? Won't be the same without you making my McMuffin & dispensing my OJ.

MiddleRight

Ask The Big Dog what Wendys is paying him. Might be a smart career move to leave McD's for Wendys.

God Of Thunder

Holy crap.. The nation will go into total disarray without all the fat being served.. What will we do???

Pete

I'm buying a gallon of Florida's finest and making wheat toast....

I will suffer through this crisis. Some how. Some way!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I will have to ask around to those I know who have trade and/or college-level experience as well as years of service and find out what they think about beginning positions being paid a few dollars more than they make. Because that is an (un?)intended consequence of it pushes the payroll up for everyone else. If a high school kid gets $15/hour for their first job then what about the guy who has been there a few years? The shift manager? The associate manager? The manager of the store, region, etc.? Beyond doubling the base pay it can more than double everyone else's.

I don't know the books of any of the local franchises (and it's none of my business to anyway), but that would be impossible for me to do and I am by no means a greedy 1%-er. What about the local restaurants that would have to compete with the franchises who also can't pay that wage out of the fact they would be out of business and not for some kind of "corporate greed" excuse? On top of that, with the high turnover of fast food jobs, what would that do to unemployment benefit costs when people are inevitably fired/turned over quickly but are paid a percentage of that twice as high wage?

I don't want to be seen by a reasonable person as "against" workers, but there is never just one cause nor solution to a problem. The ramifications extend well beyond intended and even studied inputs/results.

I have always wondered what would happen if the minimum wage was eliminated and places had to compete for workers instead of legally skate by on just that: the minimum. There has to be some kind of thought experiment or other way to study those effects or an alternative system to put in place to encourage competitive wages instead of compel substandard minimums that will forever be a point of contention, dissent, and misery.

EDIT: Addendum was that only the full-timers are demanding $15/hour. Given the pace of part-time work growth over full-time (the economy, this movement, and the ACA not helping) perhaps it won't be as big an impact since I believe the majority of these jobs are and always will be part-time. Hmmm, if that's the case then who are they really helping? Seriously. Are the part-timers rallying too to make sure they demand a policy that won't apply to them? I'm kind of confused now after re-reading this again and again. I have a lot to explore here to understand better.

Justme...

They are asking for it for all workers. The statement about full time workers was just to illustrate that that translates to $31,000 for a full time worker - allowing us to see how rediculous this is.

bluestreakparent76

When a McDonalds worker with no education makes more than entry level teachers with a bachelors or masters there's a problem with society.

2cents

The steps toward socialism!

MiddleRight

They don't.

phroggy

Huh....

concernedtruth

This is rediculous, I had a job that paid me $45K a year and lost it, I went out and found a job that paid me $8 an hour just so I could work and then eventually worked 1 full time and 2 part time jobs and worked 7 days a week and had a disabled wife at home and no insurance and was over 54 yrs old. Get off your lazy behinds and find something no matter what and work hard and be proud of what you do.

Bleeding Turnips

I hope they fire every one of them and replace them with new people. McDonald's has the best trained of any fast food restaurants but they shouldn't be paid $15 an hour. Many fast food chains have people earning $7.25 an hour who are probably over paid by $3.00 an hour. These jobs were never meant to raise a family on, McDonald's provides a service to these young people. They teach them HOW to work for an employer. Unions are taking a beating and now they want to prey on minimum wage earners to promise them the moon just to take their "union dues" from them.

Restless1

Do away with minimum wage! It will be better for all involved if employers had to compete for help. It happens at ALL LEVELS except where the government mandates a pay rate.

starryeyes83

It could be worse, what if they decide to roll minimum wage back to $3 bucks an hour.

People really need to step back and see if they can AFFORD kids. That public safety net is going break one of these days - soon.

JudgeMeNot

$31,000 a year for flipping burgers? Let's all participate in the "race to the bottom".

SamAdams

I agree with Bleeding Turnips: Fire those who don't show up for their regular shift, because clearly they don't appreciate the job they've got!

Want to make $15.00 an hour? Okay, GET A SKILL. Want to force McDonald's to pay you $15.00 an hour? That'll work just great until 30 seconds later when the price of a Big Mac goes up to $8.50! I realize anybody who thinks a $15 minimum wage is a good idea hasn't much notion of economics or business or, let's be blunt, mathematics. But how is it that even an IDIOT can't understand at least THAT much?

The Big Dog's back

When in doubt, blame those without.

Nemesis

Those without skills, without foresight, without the self control to think more than two weeks into the future....

If you want $15/hour, go out and find someone who is WILLING to pay you that based on the value they see in your services, and whose proven business judgement has put them in a position to be ABLE to pay you that much. If you can't find such a person, then improve your own value proposition.

I'm curious, Dog - in your world, is there ANY point at which people bear ANY responsibility for their own life circumstances? Is there ANY need in people's lives for which THEY are solely responsible?

arnmcrmn

Big Dog is in that entitlement group. You know where they deserve it and cannot give you a reason why.

cracked

UNION NOW,UNION NOW,OK just kidding....see how ridiculous this UNION
stuff has become.Piss off socialist.Unions are a dinosaur,and should be a wall reference in a museum.But many hardworking people are sold on the lies and brain dump only UNION men can provide.

Stop It

(pullin' up to the drive thru)..."Ummm, yeah, I'll have the McUnion burger, hold the pension sauce, the PHD you worked for in psychology, and the artsy squirt of ketchup and mustard. Just sweet relish and lottsa green lettuce and that gov't cheese and The Mayo Clinic. Oh! and some pansy Francias Fries and an imitation chocolate flavored frozen milk product.

The driver will pay, we will receive the order at the 4th window of this stretch limo, Thenk Yew!"

From the Grave

Based on the quality of the food and the service I get at those places, I'd say that the wages are just about right. Two times in a row I didn't get a spoon with my coffee at Wendys. And you deserve how much more?

phroggy

why would anyone need a spoon with their coffee?

Mystery_Cheese

Perhaps to stir?

Jmschmidt812

People can't honestly expect fast food workers to be paid $15 and hour. That is just ridiculous. Theses people are not on their feet all day every day. Most of, if not all, of these positions are part time. Which means less than 8hrs a day. Add into the equation their breaks and it's even less hours. So for them to be paid that kind of wage is proposterous. I know of factory workers working 40-60 hours a week that don't even make that much. You want to make more, finish high school and learn a trade of some sort. And as it was said earlier these are entry level positions that are to help introduce you to a working environment.

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