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

deertracker

Good luck trying to get automation and technology to buy the products.

Justme...

You also don't employ people in order to get them to buy your products. I don't think you'll ever get it. I start a company to make money. I hire as needed and pay what I have to pay to get the job done. If I can grow my business without hiring more people, thats a good thing for my business! I personally work for a company. I don't hold it against them that they open their doors each day, not to employ me, but to make money.

Nemesis

Billions served, deer. McDonald's doesn't seem to have any trouble finding customers. I don't eat it, but apparently, someone does.

Nemesis

Billions served, deer. McDonald's doesn't seem to have any trouble finding customers. I don't eat it, but apparently, someone does.

JudgeMeNot

We all know you could not make it in fast food deerwhaker. You would be wanting to give out free burgers to the freeloaders and reducing the companies profit.

AEversole

Phroggy you r kidding right? Price of gas trippled in the past 10 yrs, electric bills at least doubled, milk over doubled, price of groceries almost doubled and don't think the cost of living has raised? Where did you go to school? Maybe you should go back simple mathematics. As stated they know they wont ge 15$ but if they get countered it might be high enough to be right were they need it......these jobs that have been made available since this recession are a joke.... all min wage junk that are impossible to support a family, so I totally agree, and if this country wants change and they stick together in every city in every store, they will see a change..make a stand so we as a whole can receive that change we were promised.

JudgeMeNot

Less than five years ago gas was on average 1.70. Electric has doubled because of obamas war on coal. Milk has doubled due to high fuel prices. The cost of living has increased, but so have taxes.

grumpy

If the owner/operator of the business couldn't find enough workers at $7.25 per hour, like in Montana and North Dakota, they would have to pay more to get workers. That is the definition of market wages. As is they have applications on file to replace the workers they have. Fast food has a rather high turnover.

Nor'easter

Doubling the minimum wage will also double the prices for no net gain. The real harm would be to Retired and people on Disability Social Security. They would effectively have their income cut in half. Most of these disabled are already living below the poverty level and needing to make a daily choice of food or medicine or keeping the electricity and water turned on. The folly of doubling the minimum wage is that wages are always a percentage of sales. If sales stay the same the number of hours for workers would be cut in half. If people are struggling now, how are they going to survive on half of what they already were making?

baller19

This is a complete joke. This will not be good no matter what they raise it to, cause everything else will go up in time.
"Fast food has high turnover rate" no kidding, it is a starter job and there is always others that step right in with smiles.
Not looking foward to seeing how this pans out. I feel sorry for my kids when they grow up all I can do is raise them the best that I can for the future what ever that might hold for them.

The Big Dog's back

Are manufacturing jobs that pay 8-10 dollars an hour "starter jobs"? I'd be embarrassed as an employer to advertise that pay rate.

Pete

As an "employer" what do YOU pay your workers?

JudgeMeNot

You wouldn't have the first inkling on how to have a business. Your comments prove that.

looking around

Can they raise the minimum wage? Will it improve the standard of living for the service industry workers? CEO's wont talk? Well, how about somebody from the register contact one of the local franchise owners? Seems the one who lives in Sandusky and owns 15 Wendy's could be interviewed if you can catch up to him. Try finding him at the airport getting ready to depart on his $800,000 Airplane perhaps going somewhere to watch one of his race cars compete or at the Sandusky Yacht Club getting ready to cast off for the Islands on his Yacht. Maybe they can ring the doorbell at his multi million dollar home if they can get the code the fire department uses to open the gated community. Maybe his wife who owns the Pump Tavern knows where he is, she has a lot of low paid workers frequent her place were she recovers the wages they have to pay them. I don't begrudge these people the lifestyle the have, I'm sure they worked hard to get there, but can they do better for their hard working employes with a little better wage and perhaps some health benefits without being forced into it by minimum wage laws and affordable health care act? I bet he spends more money on fuel for his toys than it would take to make a difference for these people.

Sorry to single them out but it's on a local level that many here can see for themselves, it's nationwide and yes a worldwide problem. Business people tend to take advantage of low paid labor when ever and where ever possible.

The Big Dog's back

You said it looking around. Nobody begrudges these people's lifestyle, but they sure could do a little more for their hard working employees who make their lifestyle possible.

Nemesis

The people who do that never see that lifestyle, because they go out of business.

Unassumer

I agree with looking around. I also don't believe all wages are based on skills and knowledge although they want us to believe that. Some people that manage others and do absolutely nothing make $21 and hour while the minimum wage people do all the work. Employers use people. Period. It's time to start valuing them and not let them be the first hit when sales are slow. CEOs don't need million dollar houses and an airplane when their workers are on food stamps. homeless or having to live with family because they can't afford rent anywhere. There is something wrong with our system. That's the bottom line.

grumpy

When you own the business, then you can pay your employees more if you wish

What makes you feel that you can tell an employer what they have to pay someone? Who gave you that power or the right to tell the business owner?

If you don't like the pay the employer pays don't work there and don't buy from that company. Not eating fast food would be good for your health.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

So how do you micromanage what every person does in every position in every private business? How do you legislate and forcibly compel this? I don't argue your emotion, but the implementation is the issue.

Just as well, while you may not think rich people need those houses and planes, but...who built them? Designed them? Did the wiring? Plumbing? Who pumped the fuel for the jet or to get the contractor to the worksite? Do the pilots of that unneeded plane and all the maintenance staff that keep it going not need jobs either?

I get your passion, but try to look at the bigger picture. Nobody "needs" comic books but yet I make my livelihood on selling things to people they don't "need" according to someone else's opinion that isn't the money holder. Do I need to go out of business so that someone else doesn't have to be on assistance?

The Big Dog's back

Your answer to your questions? Minimum wage workers.

grumpy

You think minimum wage workers designed the plane? Did the wiring? Piloted the plane? Really? Are you that deluded? I guess with that last question I answered my other questions.

looking around

Grumpy, you obviously don't know anything about the aviation industry!

arnmcrmn

and I can guarantee you that those people, along with the people holding the light sticks guiding planes aren't making minimum wage either. I had a patient who handled LUGGAGE for Southwest who was making $25.00 an hour to handle bags.

Nemesis

Pay is not based on the skills and knowledge of the employee; it's based on the skills and knowledge needed to do the job. If you're flipping burgers, a PhD is is of no value to your employer. Skills and knowledge don't justify asking for higher pay - they qualify one to go find a DIFFERENT job that pays more.

arnmcrmn

For those of you complaining. Go start your own business, see what overhead really is and all the time you put in at home and behind the scenes. Then tell your employees that you can't pay them $20.00 an hour because it cuts into your profit to much and wont allow you to grow.

Job pay is based on skill and the availabitity for someone to replace someone if you fired them. When a CEO of a major company is fired, the board does not call up Harvard and ask if they have an CEO's ready in their CEO 101 class. Hint: schools do not have CEO classes. CEO's are like professional football players. There are many out there that on paper look good and claim they can do the job, but when it comes down to it only a few can mentally and physically handle the job. Now, McDonalds.......21 year old Darnell who has been with McD's for 2 years decides to skip a couple days and play some COD on his xbox. The manager calls him in and fires him and then within a few minutes has a replacement, as he reaches into his "application drawer" and calls the next person on top of the pile. Training takes 2 days and they are off on their own flipping burgers.

If you don't own a business, you simply do not get the dynamics.

AnAmerican

If there were not so many lucrative entitlements there would be no discussion. No reason to strive or work hard when you can always fall back on the entitlements.

Pages