U.S. fast-food workers set for walkouts to demand wage hike

Sept 4 Thu Sep 4, 2014 12:01am EDT

Sept 4 (Reuters) - Fast-food workers in more than 150 U.S. cities are planning protests on Thursday to press for a wage increase to $15 an hour and allow them to unionize jobs from the fry-basket at McDonald's to the cash register at Burger King.

"We're going to have walkouts all over the country," said Kendall Fells, organizing director of the movement called Fight for 15. "There are going to be workers who don't show up to work or who walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. or at noon."

Observing the various job actions will be international delegations of workers from 13 countries in Europe, Asia and South America, he said.

The protests come as cities across the United States propose minimum wage increases while Democrats in Congress seek to raise the federal minimum wage ahead of November's mid-term congressional elections.

A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute think tank found the typical worker in the restaurant industry makes $10 an hour compared to $18 an hour typically earned in other industries.

One in six restaurant workers, or 16.7 percent, lives below the official poverty line, compared to 6.3 percent of those working in other industries, the report said.

Fast-food workers are even poorer, earning an average of less than $8 an hour, according to the Service Employees International Union, which supports the fast-food workers' protests.

"Nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty," U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, said on Twitter. "I applaud the fast-food workers all across the country who will be striking on Thursday to raise the minimum wage to a living wage."

The protests are the latest in a series over the past two years and were expected to take place in more than 150 cities including New York, Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles.

In Cleveland, hundreds of home health aides seeking better compensation were expected to turn out in a show of support for the fast-food workers, Fells said. (Editing by Will Dunham)