Fast-food strikes set for cities nationwide

  • Follow Business

NEW YORK — Fast-food customers in search of burgers and fries today might run into striking workers instead.

Organizers say thousands of fast-food workers are set to stage walkouts in dozens of cities around the country, part of a push to get chains such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s to pay workers higher wages.

It’s expected be the largest nationwide strike by fast-food workers, according to organizers. The biggest effort so far was earlier this summer, when about 2,200 of the nation’s millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities.

Today’s planned walkouts follow a series of strikes that began in November in New York City, then spread to cities including Chicago, Detroit and Seattle. Workers say they want $15 an hour, which would be about $31,000 a year for full-time employees. That’s more than double the federal minimum wage, which many fast-food workers make, of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year.

The move comes amid calls from the White House, some members of Congress and economists to raise the federal minimum wage, which was last increased in 2009. Most proposals seek a far more modest increase than the ones workers are asking for, with President Obama wanting to boost it to $9 an hour.

The push has brought considerable media attention to a staple of the fast-food industry – the so-called “McJobs” that are known for their low pay and limited prospects. But the workers taking part in the strikes still represent a tiny fraction of the broader industry. And it’s not clear whether the strikes today will shut down any restaurants. Organizers made their plans public earlier, giving managers time to adjust their staffing levels. More broadly, it’s not clear how many customers are aware of the movement, with turnout for past strikes relatively low in some cities.

As it stands, fast-food workers say they can’t live on what they’re paid.

Shaniqua Davis, 20, lives in the Bronx with her unemployed boyfriend and their 1-year-old daughter. Davis has worked at a McDonald’s a few blocks from her apartment for the past three months, earning $7.25 an hour. Her schedule varies, but she never gets close to 40 hours a week. “Forty? Never. They refuse to let you get to that (many) hours.”

Her weekly paycheck is $150 or much lower. “One of my paychecks, I only got $71 on there. So I wasn’t able to do much with that. My daughter needs stuff, I need to get stuff for my apartment,” said Davis, who plans to participate in the strike.

She pays the rent with public assistance but struggles to afford food, diapers, subway and taxi fares, cable TV, and other expenses with her paycheck.

The National Restaurant Association says the low wages reflect the fact that most fast-food workers tend to be younger and have little work experience. Scott DeFife, a spokesman for the group, says that doubling wages would hurt job creation.

Still, the actions are striking a chord in some corners.

Robert Reich, a worker advocate and former Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration, said that the struggles of living on low wages is hitting close to home for many because of the weak economic climate.

“More and more, people are aware of someone either in their wider circle of friends or extended family who has fallen on hard times,” Reich said.

Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union, which is providing the fast-food strikes with financial support and training, said the actions in recent months show that fast-food workers can be mobilized, despite the industry’s relatively higher turnover rates and younger age.

“The reality has totally blown through the obstacles,” she said.

Comments (4) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
jimmymac 08/29/13 - 08:46 am

Striking will definitely not improve their state in life. I suggest they get some skills that will get them out of a job that was never intended to be a career. Shaniqua says she never gets 40 hours a week and her boyfriend doesn't work and she's doesn't make enough to get stuff. I suggest she dump her deadbeat boyfriend and get another job to improve her life. Did she ever finish high school?

David Parker
David Parker 08/29/13 - 11:39 am
Instead of paying their share

Instead of paying their share toward welfare, the corporation pays a smaller wage and banks super-profits. Who pays into the welfare that gets handed to the entitlists? Yep, me and you. Let the fast food industry burn or make them pay rightfully into welfare since they are a major contributor to it's creation. It's human nature to want more, so you ain't changin that. The labor force will always want more, but if the entitlists could see the benefit of earning the money over sitting on their duff and being given the money, that would solve some of the problem.

Like I said, otherwise, they can burn.

Sweet son
Sweet son 08/29/13 - 12:20 pm
Red Headed Step Child
Red Headed Step Child 08/29/13 - 01:58 pm
You want $15 an hour in fast food?

Work hard, and become a store manager. Otherwise, understand that if you want to earn at that level, you need to develop skills that are more in line with that earning level - most likely in another industry.

I did my stint in fast food as a teenager and college student. 5 years of it and yes, I worked hard - and this was in the days of $3.35/hr minimum wage. Most people understand that these types of jobs are ENTRY LEVEL - if no true skills are required to get the job, you're not going to earn more than minimum wage.

So many people don't understand the ripple effect - if you increase the minimum wage to that level, then costs of goods and services will increase accordingly - you aren't going to be making any traction. You won't be gaining anything..

I understand that for a lot of people, these are the only jobs available - but again, if you continue to develop yourself, you will become attractive to other employers with higher earning potential. It does happen!

triscuit 08/29/13 - 11:03 pm
McD's, Taco Bell and Wendy's

McD's, Taco Bell and Wendy's are all overpaying the sorry help they hire now. Let them close.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs
Top headlines
Fla. club shooting kills 2
FORT MYERS, Fla. - A shooting at a Florida nightclub early this morning killed two people and wounded as many as 17, police said. The attack apparently occurred at a teen party, billed as a ...