Fast-food protests return

Workers across the country walked off their jobs to fight for a $15 an hour wage
Associated Press
Dec 5, 2013

Fast-food workers and labor organizers marched, waved signs and chanted in cities across the country on Thursday in a push for higher wages.

Organizers say employees planned to forgo work in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. But by late afternoon, it was unclear what the actual turnout was or how many of the participants were workers. At targeted restaurants, the disruptions seemed minimal or temporary.

The protests are part of an effort that began about a year ago and is spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union, which has spent millions to bankroll local worker groups and organize publicity for the demonstrations. Protesters are calling for pay of $15 an hour, but the figure is seen more as a rallying point than a near-term possibility.

At a time when there's growing national and international attention on economic disparities, advocacy groups and Democrats are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25. That comes to about $15,000 a year for full-time work.

On Thursday, crowds gathered outside restaurants in cities including Boston, Lakewood, Calif., Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C., where protesters walked into a Burger King but didn't stop customers from getting their food.

In Detroit, about 50 demonstrators turned out for a pre-dawn rally in front of a McDonald's. A few employees said they weren't working but a manager and other employees kept the restaurant open.

Julius Waters, a 29-year-old McDonald's maintenance worker who was among the protesters, said it's hard making ends meet on his wage of $7.40 an hour.

"I need a better wage for myself, because, right now, I'm relying on aid, and $7.40 is not able to help me maintain taking care of my son. I'm a single parent," Waters said.

In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums while marching into a McDonald's at around 6:30 a.m.; one startled customer grabbed his food and fled as they flooded the restaurant, while another didn't look up from eating and reading amid their chants of "We can't survive on $7.25!"

Community leaders took turns giving speeches for about 15 minutes until police arrived and ordered protesters out of the store. The crowd continued to demonstrate outside for about 45 minutes.

Later in the day, about 50 protesters rallied outside a Wendy's in Brooklyn. Channon Wetstone, a 44-year-old attorney ended up going to a nearby Burger King because of the protests.

She said fast-food employees work very hard. When asked if she'd be willing to pay more for food so they could earn more, she said it would depend on what she was ordering.

"I would say 50 cents, 75 cents more," Wetstone said.

The push for higher pay in fast food faces an uphill battle. The industry competes aggressively on being able to offer low-cost meals and companies have warned that they would need to raise prices if wages were hiked.

Fast-food workers have also historically been seen as difficult to unionize, given the industry's high turnover rates. But the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million workers in health care, janitorial and other industries, has helped put their wages in the spotlight.

Berlin Rosen, a political consulting and public relations firm based in New York City, is coordinating communications efforts and connecting organizers with media outlets. The firm says its clients are the coalitions in each city, such as Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15. Those groups were established with the help of the SEIU, which is also listed on Berlin Rosen's website as a client.

The National Restaurant Association, an industry lobbying group, said most protesters were union workers and that "relatively few" restaurant employees have participated in past actions. It called the demonstrations a "campaign engineered by national labor groups."

McDonald's, Wendy's and Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, said in statements that their restaurants create work opportunities and provide training and the ability to advance. Burger King reissued its statement on past protests, saying its restaurants have provided an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans.

In the meantime, the protests are getting some high-powered support from the White House. In an economic policy speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama mentioned fast-food and retail workers "who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty" in his call for raising the federal minimum wage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised a vote on the wage hike by the end of the year. But the measure is not expected to gain traction in the House, where Republican leaders oppose it.

Supporters of wage hikes have been more successful at the state and local level. California, Connecticut and Rhode Island raised their minimum wages this year. Last month, voters in New Jersey approved an increase in the minimum to $8.25 an hour, up from $7.25 an hour.

 

Comments

44846GWP

Burger flipping in an entry level job for High Schoolers and re-tired to suplment income. It is not ment to be able to raise a family on! $15 an hour for unskilled labor, no, go get an education and a better paying job.

Cowboy

You took the words right out of my mouth!

Unassumer

you could use a little education yourself (supplement, meant). all minimum wage jobs are not burger flipping and some of them have more duties than higher paying jobs (so some are underpaid for that reason). minimum wage jobs are not equal. also many people with degrees still cannot get any better than an entry level low paying job.

BabyMomma

That's because any idiot with a computer can get a fake degree on the internet. Don't even need to change out of your pajamas or pay for it! I despise internet colleges. They are fake. Period. College used to be a privilege, now people feel it's a right.

KnuckleDragger

Your comment shows your complete ignorance of online college education. While I will agree there are some unscrupulous ones out there, the same can be said of brick and mortar schools such as ITT tech, Fordis, and others. It is your job as a consumer to research a school before giving them money. To say all online schools are fake is disingenuous. I received my graduate degree online. Had I been forced to drive several days a week to a brick and mortar school I would have never been able to complete it as working adult with family to care for. The important thing to look at when researching an online school is whether or not they are regionally accredited. Regional accreditation means they have passed a rigorous evaluation of their programs and student outcomes. All public universities must be regionally accredited to issue degrees, so an online school that has this distinction means that it is operating at the same level as a public university. The school I attended only offered online degrees and is accredited by the same body that has accredited such schools in Ohio as Bluffton College, BGSU, Cleveland State, and Ohio State. It is far from a fake school. In fact most universities now offer degrees that are completely online in order to capture the non-traditional student demographic (working adults).

BabyMomma

Fake school

mikesee

Any one of the protesters should feel free to spend THEIR money and start their own business.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I wonder if the SEIU was paying their sympathetic protesters $15/hour for their unskilled labor at holding signs and marching? Or is it like the ACA enrollment centers that primarily employ part time navigators so they won't have to supply them health insurance?

Many of the people in my store's community work at these places so I am not deaf to how hard it can be, but these are starting jobs and not jobs that should be making that money. I also have skilled, trained chefs that work at places of note as a part of my community and they don't even earn that much! But you have to ask, "Will increasing the minimum wage help the poor?"

Look at states that have increased theirs, are they devoid of poor and struggling people? Is the $1 jump in NJ sloughing enrollees from programs and creating generational wealth that will be passed on from one generation to the next? Would $10/hour? Would even $15/hour?

Or is this actually just a cruel stringing-along to continually keep vulnerable people duped and upset at things that aren't the root cause of dysfunction and despair?

KnuckleDragger

After watching the news yesterday, the media came to the conclusion that people weren't walking off the job for the protest. MSNBC interviewed several of the protesters and the reporter said that out of the 60 she talked to only one actually worked at one of these places. The rest were paid hacks of the SEIU. Now for the real story...Several news outlets asked the protestors how much the SEIU was paying them to picket. $10/hr. Seems the SEIU wants fast food to pay $15/hr but refuses to pay their own employees $15/hr. Hypocrites. The same union keeps touting Kroger as being one of the retailers with low wages, what they fail to mention is that Kroger is unionized by the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers). One has to ask employees at Kroger, what are those union dues doing for you?

coasterfan

Many of them HAD good jobs until the Bush Recession. Please explain to us how they would possibly afford additional schooling, when they can't even afford to feed themselves. I recently read that one of the leading employers of people on food stamps is....drum roll, please....Kroger.
Before you pass judgement, please tell us what YOU would do, if you were in the same situation: working 40 hours a week, and earning almost $300 before taxes?

Pete

Isn't Kroger signatory to the UFCW?

Go union dues!

KnuckleDragger

Yes they are.

Pete

What is the dues deduction for the "privilege" of being on food stamps?

KnuckleDragger

chirp...chirp...chirp

Don't expect coaster to answer the union question, it will take him several days to get the egg off of his face. LOL

Pete

Exactly. Notice how few posts there were in the Detroit Goes Bankrupt section.

These people can't think on their own. Or form a complete sentence for that matter without prompting from MediaMatters or DailyKOS.

grumpy

If you want to see herd mentality go and read the comments on any article or diary on Dailykos. It is there for all to see. It is where they see how flakey they can get, they try to outdo each other.

FearTheStache03

it seems like almost every protester they interview is a 'single parent' so yes, they could afford college since it would be paid for by the American taxpayer. Not to mention take out excessive student loans to eventually default on.

Nemesis

Or maybe, just MAYBE, they could have kept their pants on until they had acquired skills requisite with supporting a family.

Pete

That would require something called Personal Responsibility. They have zero clue what that is!

Nemesis

AND...You gotta ask yourself if maybe even $7.25/hour is overpaying someone who can't even figure out how to use a condom.

Bottom Line

How long are you going to blame Bush for everything? That's almost as old as you liberals playing the race card.

Nor'easter

PLEASE....Do some due diligence. Kroger in our area is not and has not been paying minimum wage to its employees. Many of their jobs are, however, part-time. Most of retail has become less than 30 hours because of Obamacare. For those who haven't been following, one of the issues that was created was redefining full-time employment as being 30 hours per week. This has cost many people a reduction in their scheduled hours to avoid mandated employer provided insurance. All employee wages and benefits must come from a percentage of the sales of the company. Just because government passes a law, there is still the reality of economics and accounting that requires a profit margin or the business closes. Friendly's; Roadhouse; CiCi's; to name a few.

Fireside

I finally agree with you!

Unassumer

how does one start a business with no money?

Pete

Do you have an idea for a new business?

Have you written a business plan?

Have you sought investors (friends or family) to start said business?

Are there patents to be applied for?

BEHAPPY

It's time that hard workers get a decent wage. I get tired of hearing get an education~just because you don't have the greatest job in the world doesn't mean you are uneducated! Good paying jobs are not out there no matter if you have a college education or not. Believe it or not~ALL jobs need the people that do the ACTUAL WORK~ If not for them there would be no need for you people who sit behind the desk and collect the mighty dollar while others slave to line you pockets! Not everyone was born with a silver spoon in their mouths and were lucky enough to be able to afford college! Get off of your high horse and PAY THE WORKERS!!

pptrsha

you go BEHAPPY!!!!!

Nemesis

Ah yes, the class warfare agitprop that the only honest work is manual labor that a machine could do.

Unassumer

I agree. People think you can just go out and get a better paying job by applying yourself and getting more education (these people have obviously never tried it) when in reality, companies are relying on minimum wage people to run their businesses and are doing away with the higher paid managers to save money. You can work 5 years at an entry level job, go to school at night and get a degree and still not be able to rise above. I don't think some entry level jobs should have a wage of $15 an hour, but $10 is fairly realistic; others should remain around $8. It depends on the duties and physical or mental stamina required-like a housekeeper should really be paid more than a burger flipper for instance; housekeepers have to work much harder and much faster.

KnuckleDragger

Apparently you fail to look at the statistics if you actually believe what you are saying. It is the uneducated that suffer the brunt of economic downturns. Sounds like you've drunk the class warfare kool-aid that has you now attacking middle class workers and blaming them for your lot in life. If you are in middle age and are still working at McDonalds...look in the mirror, that is where you place the blame.

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