Nov 29 Fast-food restaurant employees protested
in New York City on Thursday, demanding higher pay and the right
to form a union - the latest attempt by lower-wage workers in
the United States to increase their compensation.
The campaign, called "Fast Food Forward," seeks to roughly
double hourly pay to $15 an hour and is being billed as the
largest attempt to unionize U.S. fast-food workers.
Leading the effort is New York Communities for Change, a
group that has helped unionize low-wage carwash and grocery
workers in New York.
Strikes were scheduled at McDonald's, Burger King
, Wendy's, Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and
Domino's restaurants around the city throughout the day.
Representatives from those companies did not immediately
respond to requests for comment.
Organizers told Reuters that 14 employees at a Midtown
Manhattan McDonald's restaurant near Grand Central Station had
walked off the job early on Thursday morning. All but three of
those people were scheduled to work, said organizers, who said
they expected hundreds of workers at dozens of restaurants to
participate in Thursday's action.
Joshua Williams, 28, works at a Wendy's in downtown Brooklyn
and said he would be among the workers walking out on Thursday.
Williams, who said he still made a minimum wage of $7.25 an
hour after working at the restaurant for more than a year, hopes
to earn enough to pay rent and buy necessities like food and
"We're asking for basic needs," said Williams, who works 30
to 40 hours a week and believes large fast-food companies can
afford to pay workers more.
The U.S. fast-food industry has long been known for its
low-paying jobs. What has changed since the last U.S. recession
is that many adults now are competing with high school students
for those positions - which often do not provide a living wage
to full-time workers.
"People just can't find decent wage jobs," said Jonathan
Westin, organizing director for NYCC. "The floor needs to be
raised for everybody."
The campaign's backers include UnitedNY.org, the Service
Employees International Union - which bills itself as the
fastest-growing labor organization in North America - and the
Black Institute, Westin said.
Richard Adams, a former McDonald's franchise director and
restaurant owner who now advises the company's franchisees, said
raising pay to $15 per hour would be an "insane increase" that
would add at least $1 to $2 to the cost of a fast-food sandwich.
"There goes the Dollar Menu," Adams said, referring to
McDonald's popular low-priced selections.
The protests come a week after OUR Walmart - a coalition of
current and former Wal-Mart Stores Inc workers seeking
better wages, benefits and working conditions - held protests at
several Walmart stores across the United States.