brands under fire

Fast Food Workers Kick-Off Nationwide Strikes in NYC in Support of Higher Pay, Unions

Posted by Sheila Shayon on July 29, 2013 05:32 PM

And the wage wars continue. Hundreds of workers at fast food chain outlets across New York City took to the streets Monday to strike for higher wages, demanding the standard wage be raised to $15 per hour, more than twice the $7.25 minimum wage that fast food employees currently earn. 

Organizers from New York-based Fast Food Forward said the strike affected around 60 restaurants operated by McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC and Burger King. "A lot of the workers are living in poverty, not able to put food on the table or take the train to work. They are striking because they can't continue to maintain their families on the wages they're being paid in the fast food industry, said director Jonathan Westin, according to AFP. 

Protests are scheduled to take place this week in Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Mich., Kansas City, Milwaukee and St. Louis. "It will be by far one of the biggest actions (in the sector) this country has seen so far," Westin predicted.

The nationwide protests follow a string of recent wage disagreements. Earlier this month, McDonald's came under fire for its published "Budget Journal," which is supposed to help its workers budget their earnings accordingly. The budget plan was dubbed "one of the many ways McDonald's is creating a satisfying and rewarding work environment," except that the budget, as critics pointed out, included a line for a "first job" and "second job," drawing attention to the fact that McDonald's execs realize that its wages aren't enough to support a livable lifestyle, nevermind a family. 

Outside of the fast-food sector, Walmart has also recently been under fire for its opposition to a "living wage" bill that was passed in Washington, D.C. The world's largest retailer made its point clear when it announced that it would scrap plans for three D.C.-area stores due to the passage of the bill. 

The median pay for close to 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, $4,500 lower than the Census Bureau's poverty income threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four. 

"Working conditions clearly are not being respected," New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. "They need a union to make sure this type of mistreatment comes to an end."

Supporters of the cause staged walk-outs and demonstrations in some of New York City's biggest tourist hubs, including Union Square. As of Monday, nearly 125,000 people have signed a petition to the CEOs of Wendy's, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Domino's, KFC, Taco Bell and Burger King, demanding a $15 hourly wage and the right to form a union without interference. 

"I believe that, here in America, everyone who works hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, and transportation for themselves and their families," reads the petition. "Supporting your employees and their families with living wages is a critical contribution to achieving this vision."

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