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‘We’re tired of low wages,’ fast food workers say

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NEW YORK — Fast food workers will walk off work in seven cities across the country this week, continuing their campaign to garner higher wages and the right to unionize.

Dozens of workers asking to be paid a minimum of $15 an hour and the right to organize without retaliation are expected to protest outside of McDonald’s and Wendy’s locations across New York City on Monday. The rallies will move to Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City and Flint, Michigan the rest of the week.

The campaign, organized by a coalition of labor, community and clergy groups called Fast Food Forward, has been building momentum since last fall, when the protests first came into the national spotlight.

Recently, even Washington has caught on.


Courtesy CNN

The White House mentioned the “low-wage worker” protests in a blog written last week by the the National Economic Council director Gene Sperling and Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. They said that raising the minimum wage was part of President Obama’s economic vision.

“Marking four years since the last increase, Americans across the country are making the case for why raising the minimum wage is good for workers and the economy,” the post said.

Currently, the median pay for the nearly 50,000 fast food workers in New York City is $9 an hour, or $18,500 a year, according to the New York Labor Department. That’s about $4,500 lower than Census Bureau’s poverty income threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four. While minimum wage in New York is $7.25 an hour, food service workers may earn $4.65 an hour because their total compensation includes expected tips.

In May, the New York State attorney general’s office said it was investigating whether fast food restaurant owners have cheated their workers out of wages by paying them less than minimum wage, not paying overtime and not reimbursing for work-related expenses like uniforms or gas for deliveries.

The investigation came on the heels of a study released by Fast Food Forward based on 500 interviews with New York fast food workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Papa John’s. Nearly 85% of those surveyed said their employer had committed at least one form of wage theft.

Labor experts say there have been scattered attempts to organize over the last several decades, but very little in the fast food industry has stuck. Many say that’s because there is a high turnover rate of labor in the industry.

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  • LOL

    If you want a living wage, don't do the job a teenager should be doing. If you don't do anything challenging, then don't expect a good wage!!!

  • Guest1

    I have been at many fast food places when the till broke and the person working could not even count my change back…. Worth $15 an hour when you can't even count change … Not… And also pro union=anti business and anti prophets. And you want better wedges get a job that requires skill… And yes I have worked in food service.

    • Steph

      I agree
      Totally. They are unskilled labor
      Which should
      Be paid the minimum. I
      Worked in fast food as a teen and it gave me a good idea of
      Why I wanted to Go Back to School. Making 4.25 an hour wasn't enough.

  • Steph

    This crazy. If you want more
    Than minimum wage you need to
    Get an education or on the job training. Minimum wages are
    There for a reason. They are UNSKILLED labor.

  • wayne

    this is supposed to be entry level in the work force.not to pay a mortage,raise a family and retire.only lazy people with no life ambitions would want to make a career out of flipping burgers. my wife worked 10 years for mc'ds and was moving up in the pay scale. but she was not the main wage earner

  • jabailo

    Look at it this way…how is Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing going to sell high technology products when there isn't a wide, literate market to purchase them? If you have people living hand to mouth, they aren't going to take plane trips. Or go to college. Or game on XBoxes. It is in everyone's self interest to expand the market of people who have excess income and leisure time to absorb all the new products. It's pure capitalism and I approve of it.

  • Hank

    The consumer is the one paying the wage.
    Wages go up – the price of the product goes up to pay for the wage.
    The consumer will stop purchasing.