Fast-food workers stage protests

Thousands of fast-food workers and their supporters beat drums, blew whistles and chanted slogans Thursday on picket lines in dozens of U.S. cities, marking the largest protest yet in their quest for higher wages.
Associated Press
Aug 29, 2013

The nationwide day of demonstrations came after similar actions organized by unions and community groups over the past several months. Workers are calling for the right to unionize without interference from employers and for pay of $15 an hour. That's more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year for full-time employees.

Thursday's walkouts and protests reached about 60 cities, including New York, Chicago and Detroit, organizers said. But the turnout varied significantly, with some targeted restaurants seemingly operating normally and others temporarily unable to do business because they had too few employees.

Ryan Carter, a 29-year-old who bought a $1 cup of coffee at a New York McDonald's where protesters gathered, said he "absolutely" supported the demand for higher wages.

"They work harder than the billionaires in this city," he said. But Carter said he didn't plan to stop his regular trips to McDonald's.

Jobs in low-wage industries have led the economic recovery. Advocates for a higher minimum wage say that makes it crucial that the jobs pay enough for workers who support families.

The restaurant industry says it already operates on thin margins and insists that sharply higher wages would lead to steeper prices for customers and fewer opportunities for job seekers.

The drive for better pay comes as the White House, some members of Congress and economists seek to raise the federal minimum wage. But most proposals are for a more modest increase, with President Barack Obama suggesting $9 an hour.

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

Walkouts were also planned Thursday in Atlanta, Hartford, Conn., Los Angeles, Milwaukee, St. Louis and other cities, organizers said.

In New York, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined about 300 to 400 workers and supporters Thursday in a march before the group flooded into a McDonald's near the Empire State Building. 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 public awareness illustrates the challenge workers face in building wider support. Workers participating in the strikes still represent a tiny fraction of the industry. And the industry is still known for its high turnover rates and relatively young workers.

At a Wendy's in New York City, about 150 workers and supporters stood outside chanting, "We can't survive on $7.25." There were no customers inside.

In Detroit, the dining area of a McDonald's on the city's northwest side was shut down as workers and others protested outside.

In Raleigh, N.C., about 30 fast-food workers picketed outside a Little Caesars. Julio Wilson said he earned $9 an hour at the pizza restaurant, where he has worked for about six months. He said it's not enough to support himself and his 5-year-old daughter.

"I know I'm risking my job, but it's my right to fight for what I deserve," Wilson said. "Nine dollars an hour is not enough to make ends meet nowadays."

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.

In Seattle, dozens of people gathered outside a Subway to chant for a $15 minimum wage. Workers inside said they stayed open during the demonstration, and customers were still able to buy sandwiches.

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.

It said that McDonald's provides professional development for interested employees and that the protests don't give an accurate picture of what it means to work at McDonald's.

"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 in an emailed statement.

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 workers 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 requests 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.

 

Comments

SamAdams

The Fed unquestionably causes some very real problems in this regard, but it's not the ONLY problem. The government is some $17 trillion in debt not because of the Fed but because it KEEPS SPENDING MONEY! There are myriad places where the failure to cut is inexcusable, and even more places where cuts COULD be made if there was the will to do so. There is, apparently, not the will to do so.

Rosa

Nothing from Rand Paul is worth supporting, he needs to stay in the backwoods of Kentucky where he belongs...\

There is no doubt about it, minimum wage needs to be raised but as long as we have CEO's who wish to live as kings, it will not happen. We need more wealthy CEO's as Starbucks & Costco who give a damn about their employees and not just themselves...

And maybe if it cost a little more at McDonalds, people would not eat as much and we could help our USA obesity epidemic...

Fromthe419

I'm off to bed now, but before I go, this is not Bush's fault or Obama's. This is the direct result of Congress giving up what was Constitutionally their right to create currency and giving it to central bankers who neither care about us or care about our nation. To quote a Rothchild, (and I know I am not quoting it word for word)..."If I control as nation's money, I care not who makes the laws."

T-B

Fromthe419 hit the nail right on the head. It's nice to see comments like your's, and people starting to wake up. It's time for people to turn off the MSNBC and Foxnews, and start doing a little research. Keep fighting the good fight 419!

reporter54

How one does in school has little to do with getting a better paying job nowadays. There are college grads working for minimum wage in occupations not related to their degrees because of a lack of opportunities or a great number of people qualified for a certain job. Minimum wage jobs are inequitable in that you can have a minimum wage job that requires you to do many duties and others where there are only a few. A fast food employee does not work as hard as a housekeeper yet the wage is the same. Wage reviews need done for many occupations and employers need to be willing to pay a little more for better employees. I have worked alongside many that only half do their job but get the same salary as everyone else. Then there are those that pawn off their work on others and get all the credit. Those kind of things have to stop also.

Nemesis

"How one does in school has little to do with getting a better paying job nowadays. There are college grads working for minimum wage in occupations not related to their degrees"

That's because they wasted 4 years majoring in political science, (insert victim group here)-studies, or some other made up field that boils down to 4 years of indoctrination in whining about how the world is mean. WHAT one does in school is just as important as HOW one does in school.

The Big Dog's back

Such a right wingnut answer.

JudgeMeNot

Such a puppy answer.

Nemesis

Translation, Dog couldn't handle a meaningful college major because it might involve math, and, you know, math is hard.

@Andria_XX, who has an “Honors BA in Social Justice and Peace Studies” and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Gender Studies, recently tweeted: “I have a honors BA and I’m defending my MA thesis in two weeks. I am also apply for jobs and I can only find stuff in the service industry. I applied for a Hotel Front Desk Clerk job today. My degrees mean NOTHING. I am at the end of my rope.“

This confuses dog as much as it does Andria.

arnmcrmn

The talk above is on such a higher level than most posters can comprehend. Big Dog is one of them. Fell sorry for him, not mad.

SamAdams

Sorry, reporter54, but Nemesis is right. I know two very recent college grads, both of whom majored in something where there's actually some demand in the real world. Both of them are currently working in their field of choice; both of them had more than one offer from which to choose; both are making VERY good money and will likely only make more as time goes on.

How anybody who is theoretically smart enough to go to college could be stupid enough to major in "women's studies" or "art appreciation" is beyond me. There continues to be a demand for qualified people in any number of REAL disciplines. On the opposite end of the scale, and pertinent to the story at hand, is the old joke: What does a liberal arts major say after graduation? ANSWER: You want fries with that?

registerer

I hope that all of those "striking" ante up the $500k+ that it takes to buy a "franchise". Once they do that then they can pay their employees whatever they want to. It's that simple!!

As I have said before it is always easier to bitch about someone else's money. Take a chance and start your business if you think your getting screwed on your wages and you will soon see that it is not always as simple/easy as one thinks.

deertracker

15 dollar minimum wage is probably not going to work for the reasons Hero stated. It would be nice though. I take exception with the consensus that fast food workers don't work as hard as others. That is just false. There are only so many crew members allowed per shift and corporate wants all food orders out within two minutes. During a thousand dollar hour you are working your butt off. If the average check is less than 8 to 10 bucks that is a lot of customers. As business decreases so does the amount of crew so it's not like everyone just gets to stand around after a busy hour. There's still plenty of work to do. It's called getting ready for the next rush. Some of you judges on here probably could not make it in fast food. It would probably be too fast! There are lots of educated people in the hospitality industry.

Justme...

It still requires low skill. I'd love it if my college kids could make $15 an hour working fast food or working at Cedar Point, but the jobs they do simply don't warrant that wage.

deertracker

It just doesn't require major skills and neither does manufacturing or lots of other jobs. You must be trained and qualified to do any job.

Justme...

You can't put a 16 year old on an assembly line. The work can be dangerous. So many peoples' first job was fast food. There's a reason for that. Of course you must be trained and qualified to do any job. But that doesn't translate to $31,000 a year.

deertracker

The reason is because we have child labor laws. What should you have to do for 31k per year? A 16yr. old is limited as to what they can do even in fast food.

Justme...

IMO, for $31k a year, a job that is most people's first job ever - no experience or special skills required...I don't think so. And you are right our labor laws make it tempting for companies to go over seas where they have none. Personally, I find that immoral if they are actually exploiting people (our labor laws - thankfully - are such that unions are no longer needed, but that's another story). But fast food workers are silly to expect that much money.

deertracker

Why? Is it because you want your burger cheap or the work is so easy? Unions are still needed. Have you seen the articles where companies have been fined by OSHA or the Labor dept.? Fast food workers just want a livable wage or don't complain when the gov't picks up the slack. Nothing silly about that!

Justme...

OSHA and Labor Dept. are WHY we don't need unions. I'm not saying companies don't need watched. I'm saying we have a system in place for doing that. I never eat fast food, so I could care less the cost of a burger. To suggest that minumum wage should be $15 an hour because you need that to raise a family...not every job out there can support a family. Again, start your own company and pay based on what each worker needs to support themself and their dependents. Never lay anyone off if your business gets slow. Make all you decisions based on your employees needs - let us know how that goes.

looking around

The existence of OSHA and the Labor Dept. are a direct result of unionized labor. The reason Unions are still viable and needed is to be able to monitor the workplace where OSHA and the Labor Dept. cannot on a daily basis. They make sure an employee who lodges a complaint can not be retaliated against. They represent the workforce in its entirety as well as individually. I've worked in both union and non-union as hourly and as management and I can tell you first hand Union is the way to go!

Nemesis

Why? BECAUSE OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND. There's a price people are willing to pay for a burger. There's a price for which people are willing to do the work. Right now, it's a buyers' market for low-skill labor.

Ever negotiate the price of a car, or a house? What's the basis for the strength of your negotiating position? Your willingness to walk away from the deal. If there are a hundred of that model on the lot and no customers in the showroom, you can beat the dealer up on price. Well, if there are an army of unemployed people out there who can do the job, the franchise owner can get a lower price for labor. If you want to make more, get the skills to qualify yourself for a job that fewer people can do. Value lies in scarcity.

Nemesis

Why? BECAUSE OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND. There's a price people are willing to pay for a burger. There's a price for which people are willing to do the work. Right now, it's a buyers' market for low-skill labor.

Ever negotiate the price of a car, or a house? What's the basis for the strength of your negotiating position? Your willingness to walk away from the deal. If there are a hundred of that model on the lot and no customers in the showroom, you can beat the dealer up on price. Well, if there are an army of unemployed people out there who can do the job, the franchise owner can get a lower price for labor. If you want to make more, get the skills to qualify yourself for a job that fewer people can do. Value lies in scarcity.

Nemesis

"15 dollar minimum wage is probably not going to work for the reasons Hero stated. It would be nice though."

It would be nice if Porsches grew on trees, too. Then there's the real world.

"I take exception with the consensus that fast food workers don't work as hard as others."

An ox pulling a plow works hard, too. It's about SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE. Anyone can work hard - value comes from scarcity (ever hear of supply and demand?) and there's no shortage of strong backs and weak minds.

deertracker

How much do you pay an ox? Where was the ox educated? Does the ox have a family to support? A book can only teach you so much. It's about GREED! Do you really think that companies that move their operations to extremely low wage counties are concerned about SKILLS OR KNOWLEDGE? Get a clue!

Justme...

Deertracker, go ahead and start your own business, and decide how much to pay each person that works for you based on whether or not they have a family to support. Companies that move their operations to extrememly low wage countries don't need skills and knowlege. Fast food pays less than manufacturing for many reasons - the biggest being its a "starter" job for many people and market determines the wage, within the law. It is not greedy to own a business because you want to make money. If you want to employ people, start a business for that reason and design your business around that goal. Good luck and keep up posted!

deertracker

Worked for Henry Ford. Why do they need skills and knowledge here but not other countries? The greed comes from not paying your employees what they are worth. It's only a starter job if you are a juvenile.

Justme...

So we should pay based on the person's age and whether they have dependents? If its a job that be performed by a 16 year old, chances are its not worth $15 an hour.

arnmcrmn

If ones goals in life are to work the rest of their life at a fast food chain starting at 18 years old.....you simply have nobody to complain to or cry to because you have set your own bar way to low. Good luck in life.

Nemesis

"How much do you pay an ox? Where was the ox educated"

That's the point - the ox has a strong back and a weak mind, which is all that is required to work HARD. If a human wants to get paid like a human, they should bring more to the table than the ox does.

" Do you really think that companies that move their operations to extremely low wage counties are concerned about SKILLS OR KNOWLEDGE?"

They are to the level required to do the job. If you want to make more than someone in Myanmar, then bring more value to the table than the person in Myanmar does. If the job involves no skills or knowledge, then why should an employer pay a skilled/knowledgeable labor rate? Would you pay Rolls Royce price for a Yugo?

It's a free market, supply and demand determine the rates. There's plenty of supply, and in an era of automation and technology, not much demand for strong backs and weak minds. Ya load 16 tons, and a machine loads 32 in the same time. Why should they pay John Henry more than the cost of the steam drill?

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