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

The Big Dog's back

When you make off the wall, outlandish comparisons, what am I suppose to say?

Nemesis

You could provide a substantive basis for your assertion that it's outlandish. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

LadyC

And by the way Nemesis, I try to avoid buying cheap crap. I will actually do a bit of research first, and tend to buy middle-priced items or good quality used items. I don't like to waste my time or what little money I have on something that isn't going to perform or last. Sympathy has nothing to do with it.

Nemesis

READ FOR COMPREHENSION. SAME MAKE, SAME MODEL.

You are looking at a Ford Fusion. One dealer wants $20K, one wants $40K.
EVERY ONE COMES OFF THE ASSEMBLY LINE IDENTICAL TO THE OTHERS. The only difference is that one dealer has a bigger family to feed and is taking a bigger markup to do it.

The Big Dog's back

Strawman argument.

Nemesis

Again, dog uses words he doesn't understand.

The Big Dog's back

When you come up with some real world comparisons, let me know.

Nemesis

First of all, there are real world instances of exactly what I describe, and second, there don't need to be for the illustration to be valid. The customer's relationship to a retailer is the same as an employer's relationship to a worker - a fee for a good or service. If you want one customer to pay double, you should be prepared to put your money where your mouth is.

LadyC

You are comparing apples to oranges. I get your point, but you are missing mine. I am saying that cheap labor is not the only way to be cost effective, and that no matter what you think of the people at the bottom, they are what makes the daily operation possible, and as Americans, they have a right to collectively seek improvement in their treatment, if they so choose. Their timing may not be great because of the job market, but so what? Too bad the third world slaves can't do the same thing.

Nemesis

Again, the business owners KNOW how to be cost effective - that's how they stay in business. BY DEFINITION, they are paying enough - the pay is too low when not enough qualified people apply for the job. If these people think the pay is beneath them, then they shouldn't apply for the job. If not enough of them apply, then the pay will increase until the employer gets enough qualified applicants.

If you think you are worth more than you are being paid, THEN PROVE IT - go out there and find another employer who is willing to pay you what you're worth. When the deal isn't to your liking, go make a better deal with someone else.

Nemesis

Here, dog, let me help you out.

Big Dog: It doesn't work that way in the real world.

Oh, but it DOES. I watched a coworker do it 3 weeks ago. I've done it 3 times.

Nor'easter

This assertion for $15.00 an hour @ McDonald's is total folly financially unless for can sell the product at an increased price to maintain a profitable business. In order to double the wages, you need to double your prices. Try to convince a customer to pay you double for $1.00 McDouble. It's impossible! People will shop according to value for their money.

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