November 24, 2014


Fast-food strikes return amid push for wage hikes

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonalds in Chicago on Thursday. Fast-food workers and labor organizers are set to turn out in support of higher wages in cities across the country Thursday. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonalds in Chicago on Thursday. Fast-food workers and labor organizers are set to turn out in support of higher wages in cities across the country Thursday. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

NEW YORK — Fast-food workers and labor organizers are marching, waving signs and chanting in cities across the country Thursday amid a push for higher wages.

Organizers say walkouts are planned in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. But it’s not clear what the actual turnout will be, how many of the participants are workers and what impact they’ll have on restaurant operations.

The actions would mark the largest showing yet in a push that began a year ago. At a time when there’s growing national and international attention on economic disparities, labor unions, worker advocacy groups and Democrats are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25, or about $15,000 a year for full-time work.

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 the police arrived and ordered protesters out of the store. The crowd continued to demonstrate outside for about 45 minutes. A McDonald’s manager declined to be interviewed and asked that the handful of customers in the store not be bothered.

Tyeisha Batts, a 27-year-old employee at Burger King, was among those taking part in the demonstrations planned throughout the day in New York City. She said she has been working at the location for about seven months and earns $7.25 an hour.

“My boss took me off the schedule because she knows I’m participating,” Batts said.

She said she hasn’t been retaliated against but that the manager warned that employees who didn’t arrive on time Thursday would be turned away for their shifts. Batts said she gets only between 10 and 20 hours of work a week because she thinks her employers want to avoid making her a full-time worker. Under the new health care law, workers who average 30 hours a week would be eligible for employer-sponsored health coverage starting in 2015.

Despite the growing attention on the struggles of low-wage workers, the push for higher pay in the fast-food industry faces an uphill battle. The industry competes aggressively on value offerings and companies have warned that they would need to raise prices if wages were hiked. Most fast-food locations are also owned and operated by franchisees, which lets companies such as McDonald’s Corp., Burger King Worldwide Inc. and Yum Brands Inc. say that they don’t control worker pay.

However, labor advocates have pointed out that companies control many other aspects of restaurant operations through their franchise agreements, including menus, suppliers and equipment.

Fast-food workers have 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 been providing considerable organizational and financial support to the push for higher pay over the past year.

Berlin Rosen, a political consulting and public relations firm based in New York City, also has been coordinating communications efforts and connecting organizers with media outlets.

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

In a statement, McDonald’s said it respects the right to voice an opinion. But it also said that “outside groups are traveling to McDonald’s and other outlets to stage rallies.”

In the meantime, 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 a hike in the minimum to $8.25 an hour, up from $7.25 an hour.

  • bpbatista

    Typical Liberal/Progressive economic illiteracy. Raising the minimum wage costs jobs. Doubling the minimum wage will cost lots of jobs — and will increase the automation of fast food restaurants costing even more jobs. And those hurt will be the minimum wage workers that Liberal/Progressives claim they want to help. But there is an upside for Democrat politicians who will then have even more voters dependent on government welfare.

    So it’s a win-win!!

    • FireFlyJAM

      Sources for your opinion?

      • bpbatista

        Economics 101 — The law of supply and demand. Increase the cost of something (in this case unskilled labor) and the demand for it will decrease.

  • Chipper

    First, Aren’t fast food jobs supposed to be for high school kids looking to make money until they get out of school or adults needing a job until they found a real job? never knew you were supposed to make a career out of flipping burgers at a fast food place.
    Second, shouldn’t they be happy to just have a job?? last time I looked, the unemployment rate hasn’t reached 0%. if you don’t like your current job situation, get another one
    Third, these schlubs consider flipping burgers or dropping a basket of fries as the same skill set and deserve the same wage as the person who went to school to learn a skilled trade? what a joke.
    Can you imagine if these people got their way? A McDouble would cost $5, a Rally Burger would cost $6.

  • stop ur whining

    minimum wage was NEVER supposed to be a way of life. It was set up to set a standard on the least you could pay an individual. almost all minimum wage jobs have qualifications that adhere to teenage workforce. it is meant to inspire them to achieve more. it is not meant to be a lifestyle. to those that are going to strike…knock yourselves out. you are quite literally a dime a dozen. an entire McDonald’s work force could strike and they would be back to serving billions in two days max.

    If you want more money, go get an education and make more instead of asking for more money for an UNSKILLED job.

  • djm0457

    Not trying to hurt anyones feelings here….Minimum wage jobs are introductary jobs into the work force (young kids in high school; college) and retired workers looking for a little extra cash. No one goes to work at Walmart or a fast food place and says “OH Boy !!!! 30 years here and it’s retirement city !!!!”

  • Bill Love

    The best part is if u raise the minimum wage the $15 an hour you have to give employees that are already working making more $15 an hour more money to compensate cost of living adjustment

  • Larry Crnobrnja

    DOUBLE EVERYBODY’S PAY everywhere. Then we all can buy twice as much, right? Seems pretty simple to me.

    • SniperFire

      Double? Why not $250 an hour to start!

      stupid communists. LOL

      • Larry Crnobrnja

        Everyone should get CEO pay. People would work real hard if they were rich, right?

  • Joe Sandor

    Why should someone get $15/hr to say, “Do you want fries with that?” Don’t they know the UAW starting wage is under $ Do they think they are better than autoworkers? Maybe these folks could go elsewhere IF they had education, could speak well, could dress well, and could have good work ethics. Walmart, McDonald’s, and other places have MENIAL jobs just for these type of people. They complain about high CEO pay, but, how many of the complainers worked for advance education(s) and worked HARD, HARD, HARD in their companies. Unless your daddy started the company, you rise to the top through education and effort.

    • Zen Grouch


    • bpbatista

      The reason that unions like the UAW support increasing the minimum wage to ridiculous levels is so that they can then go to Ford and say: “We’re worth more than burger flippers so raise our pay and benefits.”

      Funny how that works.

  • CharlesMartel732

    Nice of the unions to pay their lemmings to go out and protest. The only people that will benefit by a 15 dollar minimum wage are union upper management.

  • FireFlyJAM

    Ah well, Happy Hanukkah anyways.

  • SniperFire

    New York Times:
    ‘Income Inequality’ Grew 4x Faster Under Obama