What is in this article?:
- Quick-service workers, supporters protest in 60 cities for higher wages, ability to unionize
- Restaurants, industry members respond
The strikes follow walk-outs in seven cities in July, during which protesters called for a hike in wages
Quick-service restaurant employees and supporters staged protests in 60 U.S. cities on Thursday, in what organizers characterized as the largest series of protests yet, stepping up pressure on national chains to pay higher wages and to give employees the ability to form unions.
Workers were expected to rally in cities including New York; Los Angeles; Boston; Chicago; Oakland, Calif.; St. Louis; Detroit; Seattle; Spokane, Wash.; Hartford, Conn.; Denver; Dallas; Lansing, Mich.; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Employees formed picket lines in front of restaurant brands including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Domino’s and KFC.
The protesters are calling for employee wages of $15 per hour, which is more than double the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. They also demanded the right to unionize without interference or pressure from corporate or franchise management. These latest shows of force follow walk-outs in seven cities in July.
Restaurant industry association officials say the recent attempts by unions to find inroads into the foodservice industry are self-serving and will only hurt employees and the restaurant industry’s goal of job creation. The restaurant industry is one of the nation’s largest employers, with more than 13 million workers.
“Mandating increased wages would lead to higher prices for consumers, lower foot traffic and sales for franchise owners, and, ultimately, lost jobs and opportunities for employees to become managers or franchise owners,” Steve Caldeira, president and chief executive of the International Franchise Association, said in a statement. “The franchise industry is a proven job creator and career builder, yet efforts to double the minimum wage to $15 would clearly jeopardize opportunities for existing and prospective employees.”
In New York, which marked its fourth such strike since November 2012, several hundred protesters gathered outside of McDonald’s and Wendy’s outlets on Fifth Avenue and 34th Street at 6:30 a.m., chanting slogans like, “We can’t survive on $7.25.”
Kendall Fells, an organizer with Fast Food Forward, an advocacy group that has been instrumental in shaping the New York protests over the past year, said he expected the day-long event would draw between 800 and 1,000 participants before it wound down at a late afternoon rally in Union Square.
Fells said the movement, which has generated national publicity over the past months, will continue to grow in size and scope as it gains further traction across the nation. “We will continue to pressure [restaurant operators] until we get a seat at the table,” he said. “We also expect to bring in more political allies and high profile people.”
Shaniqua Davis, a crew trainer at McDonald’s on 138th Street and Brook Avenue in New York who makes $7.75 an hour, said she was participating in the protests because, “the workers deserve more money. I have no problems with management, but overall, everyone works hard and deserves better wages.”
The median wage for restaurant workers is about $8.94 an hour, protest organizers have cited, which strikers say puts most employees below the poverty level.
In addition to calling for higher pay, Davis said she would like to see more benefits, like health care and life insurance.
Because of the restaurant industry’s high turnover rate and its large percentage of teenage workers, unions historically have been unsuccessful in their efforts to organize employees. Nevertheless, some observers say this could end as more unions — many of which have seen their membership decline over the years — accelerate their efforts to organize foodservice workers.