Some quick-service restaurants had to temporarily close or re-staff with managers Thursday as workers protested in as many as 150 U.S. cities and 33 nations, calling for minimum wages of $15 hour, according to various reports.  

The one-day protest continued a campaign launched by various organizations a year and a half ago and expanded it to international locations of large brands such as McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and KFC.

USA Today reported that strikers claim that managers opted to briefly close down a Burger King in Dorchester, Mass., where some workers were striking, but Burger King spokesman Alix Salyers said that the unit was never closed. And while McDonald's officials insist that no McDonald's restaurants have been closed anywhere due to the strike, protesters insist that several have.

McDonald’s issued a statement on the strikes: “This is an important discussion that needs to take into account the highly competitive nature of the industries that employ minimum-wage workers, as well as consumers and the thousands of small businesses which own and operate the vast majority of McDonald’s restaurants.”

McDonald’s also posted on its corporate Twitter account at 9:05 a.m. C.T., saying: “It’s breakfast time — our restaurants are open! Any chatter to the contrary is false.”

Restaurant brands were otherwise quiet during Thursday’s protests.

Scott DeFife, an executive vice president for the National Restaurant Association, a trade group, dismissed the protests.

“These are made-for-TV media moments — that’s pretty much it,” he told the New York Times.

On Twitter, the #fastfoodglobal hashtag trended in nearly 20 U.S. cities, from New York to Phoenix, and around the world it trended in 50 cities, organizers said.

One-day protests like Thursday’s have helped fuel federal consideration of minimum wage increases and President Barack Obama’s call for a $10.10 an hour baseline from the current $7.25.

Several members of Congress, including Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), joined protesters around the country and released a video to support workers.

 



“Our movement is spreading to all corners of the country — and the world — and the time has come for fast-food companies to act,” Cherri Delesline, 27, a mother of four, who works at a McDonald’s in Charleston, S.C., said in a press release from the organizer.

Delesline, who organizers said makes $7.35 an hour, continued, “It’s not OK for the industry to rake in huge profits but pay us so little that we can’t support our families. Workers are fed up, and we’re going to continue growing our fight for $15.”

Some industry groups, such as the nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based Center for Union Facts, said the protests created “the perception of grassroots movements of disgruntled employees” but were misleading. The organization released a report that looked at where the organizers were getting their support.

 

 



“This report shows these fast food ‘strikes’ are anything but the grassroots movements organizers publicize them as being,” said Richard Berman, executive director of the Center for Union Facts, in a statement. “It shows they are merely part of a larger corporate smear campaign against the fast-food industry that’s stage-managed from the top down.”

But organizers said the most recent one-day effort indicated growing support, noting that protests were held for the first time internationally, as well as in such cities as Miami and Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Sacramento, Calif.; and San Antonio, Texas.

“Where Congress is failing to take action to address inequality, these workers are leading the way," said Rep. Keith Ellison (D- Minn.) said in a statement. “….It's clear this movement isn't going to stop until fast-food companies listen to the voices of these workers, who are struggling to support families on as little as $7.25 an hour.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
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