Wednesday, April 23, 2014         

 Print   Email   Comment | View 23 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

Fast-food strikes return amid push for wage hikes

By Candice Choi

AP Food Industry Writer

LAST UPDATED: 09:53 a.m. HST, Dec 05, 2013

NEW YORK » Fast-food workers and labor organizers are marching, waving signs and chanting in cities across the country today amid a push for higher wages.

Organizers say walkouts are planned in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. But it's not clear what the actual turnout will be, how many of the participants are workers and what impact they'll have on restaurant operations.

The actions would mark the largest showing yet in a push that began a year ago. At a time when there's growing national and international attention on economic disparities, labor unions, worker advocacy groups and Democrats are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25, or about $15,000 a year for full-time work.

Protesters are calling for pay of $15 an hour, but the figure is seen more as a rallying point than a near-term possibility.

In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums while marching into a McDonald's at around 6:30 a.m.; one startled customer grabbed his food and fled as they flooded the restaurant, while another didn't look up from eating and reading amid their chants of "We can't survive on $7.25!"

Community leaders took turns giving speeches for about 15 minutes until the police arrived and ordered protesters out of the store. The crowd continued to demonstrate outside for about 45 minutes. A McDonald's manager declined to be interviewed and asked that the handful of customers in the store not be bothered.

In Detroit, about 50 demonstrators turned out for a pre-dawn rally in front of a McDonald's. A handful of employees walked off the job, but the restaurant stayed open as a manager and other employees worked the front counter and drive-thru window.

Julius Waters, a 29-year-old McDonald's maintenance worker who was among the protesters, said it's hard making ends meet on his wage of $7.40 an hour.

"I need a better wage for myself, because, right now, I'm relying on aid, and $7.40 is not able to help me maintain taking care of my son. I'm a single parent," Waters said.

In Atlanta, about 40 demonstrators rallied at a Burger King; another demonstration was planned later in the day.

The push for higher pay in the fast-food industry faces an uphill battle. The industry competes aggressively on value offerings and companies have warned that they would need to raise prices if wages were hiked. Most fast-food locations are also owned and operated by franchisees, which lets companies such as McDonald's Corp., Burger King Worldwide Inc. and Yum Brands Inc. say that they don't control worker pay.

However, labor advocates have pointed out that companies control many other aspects of restaurant operations through their franchise agreements, including menus, suppliers and equipment.

Fast-food workers have historically been seen as difficult to unionize, given the industry's high turnover rates. But the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million workers in health care, janitorial and other industries, has been providing considerable organizational and financial support to the push for higher pay over the past year.

Berlin Rosen, a political consulting and public relations firm based in New York City, also has been coordinating communications efforts and connecting organizers with media outlets.

The National Restaurant Association, an industry lobbying group, said most those protesting were union workers and that "relatively few" workers have participated in past actions. It called the demonstrations a "campaign engineered by national labor groups."

McDonald's said in a statement that it's "committed to providing our employees with opportunities to succeed." The company, based in Oak Brook, Ill., said it offers employees advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits.

In the meantime, the protests are getting some high-powered support from the White House. In an economic policy speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama specifically mentioned fast-food and retail workers "who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty" in his call for raising the federal minimum wage.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez also offered words of support for the protesters on the agency's blog.

"We see momentum gathering and a consensus emerging around the idea that we need to increase the federal minimum wage, to give these workers and millions like them a fair day's pay for a fair day's work," Perez said in the statement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised a vote on the wage hike by the end of the year. But the measure is not expected to gain traction in the House, where Republican leaders oppose it.

Supporters of wage hikes have been more successful at the state and local level. California, Connecticut and Rhode Island raised their minimum wages this year. Last month, voters in New Jersey approved an increase in the minimum to $8.25 an hour, up from $7.25 an hour.

AP Labor Writer Sam Hananel contributed from Washington, AP Writer Mike Householder contributed from Detroit and AP videographer Johnny Clark contributed from Atlanta.

More From The Star-Advertiser

Fast-food workers stage largest protests yet

 Print   Email   Comment | View 23 Comments   Most Popular   Save   Post   Retweet

You must be subscribed to participate in discussions
By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. Because only subscribers are allowed to comment, we have your personal information and are able to contact you. If your comments are inappropriate, you may receive a warning, and if you persist with such comments you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email commentfeedback@staradvertiser.com.
Leave a comment

Please login to leave a comment.
eoe wrote:
3..2...1... Rabble rabble.
on December 5,2013 | 08:59AM
ehowzit wrote:
on December 5,2013 | 09:29AM
Nevadan wrote:
Minimum wage was never intended to be for professional jobs. Minimum wage jobs are governed by the law of supply and demand. The larger the supply, the lower the wages. We now have an enormous supply of illegal laborers in the country, who are competing for minimum-wage jobs. Our politicians want minimum wage to double, and yet want illegal immigrants to stay. The two are in contradiction. They want both the Hispanic votes, and the votes of our low-wage earners.
on December 5,2013 | 09:32AM
TrueCloud wrote:
$15 an hour for unskilled labor? Then watch the price of fast food double. America has publicly funded voc/tech programs available in the community colleges. Which means, through hard work, one can earn the credentials and/or certification where $15 an hour is warranted. You don't like minimum wage? Then learn a skill. Don't expect a 100% raise at taxpayers expense.
on December 5,2013 | 09:38AM
aomohoa wrote:
Let's see, my kids worked in fast food places when they were teenagers. It took a day to train them. Why should someone working in the fast food industry make $15 an hours? That's crazy. Just another reason to get a real job when you become an adult. Plan your life better. If you are a manager in charge of all employees maybe you should make a bit more, but not $15 an hour.
on December 5,2013 | 09:39AM
paniolo wrote:
These fast food workers want $15 an hour for an entry level position. Do they deserve that much? A lot of college graduates can't even FIND jobs that they can earn that much. A majority of fast food workers only have a high school diploma if even that. I'm for people earning a decent wage, but if you want $15 an hour, get an education and find a job that pays that much. Or, if you don't like what you're getting, quit and let someone who really wants to work have your position. I'm sure there's a lot of unemployed that would take your pay.
on December 5,2013 | 09:40AM
iwanaknow wrote:
Only the managers, franchisees, corporate and stockholders make out ok as long as people are buying.........
on December 5,2013 | 09:42AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
I remember back in the days when I was a teenager earning spending cash by working at a fast food restaurant that it was a job to tide you over until you got a real job. Today, it seems like these people are thinking that fast food restaurant jobs are THE jobs. I know that good jobs are getting harder and harder to find but fast food jobs are those jobs that high schools kids get to pay for prom and the threads to keep up with the kids from more affluent parents. Now, I can understand these workers' frustration in that they are getting paid basically minimum wage to raise a family on. That is just not going to happen. But many have moved up the ladder and now make a decent living as managers, etc. But I cannot see how "flipping burgers" as a specialized job that requires much beyond the "flipping" part. If anything, it's the workers at Hawaii's Burger Kings that should be seeking raises with the cost of living here. When Burger Kings in Hawaii can charge two dollars more on the national 5 bucks for two sandwiches making them 7 bucks, I'm sure that somewhere in that additional two bucks they're raking in some money. In my estimation, they are using some of the added cost to offset the "cost of doing business in Hawaii" which we all buy into. Now, I don't visit these restaurants, especially Burger King, Pizza Hut or Zippy's, very often but co-workers went on a forage to one of the Burger Kings and purchased everyone at work a Burger King Big King in order to take advantage of that 7 bucks for two sandwiches "deal". That sandwich which amounted to $3.50 each was so small that it looked like it should have been on the McDonald's dollar menu for 2 bucks. Boy, that was a rip-off.
on December 5,2013 | 10:21AM
localguy wrote:
I think most of the extra money charged for island fast food versus mainland goes to Matson or other shipping companies ripping us off. Dump the Jones Act and watch Matson drop prices.
on December 5,2013 | 11:20AM
eoe wrote:
No. "Communist" Hawaii at the end of the 90s forced Chevron to reveal how much of its gasoline profits in the entire US came from Hawaii, a state that made up 3% of Chevron's sales. It was 23%. Nothing changed since then. Safeway I'm sure is making similar margins. Its called price gouging. But of course it is easier to blame unions and laws that attempt to protect American shipping from being eviscerated.
on December 5,2013 | 11:51AM
paniolo wrote:
If you watch commercials on TV, it puts a price, but that price is for mainland restaurants, unless they put a special note saying it's Hawaii's price. Pizza Hut sometimes put prices for Hawaii's pizzas, etc. KFC, Subway, etc., most likely runs the mainland prices. Even Red Lobster states "prices higher in Hawaii." I got caught couple times expecting the advertised price, but the cashier says, that's mainland prices. We're paying higher to bring the ingredients in from the mainland.
on December 5,2013 | 11:50AM
konag43 wrote:
these people are ridiculous i used to work in the fast food business its not a $15.00 an hour job. this is a no brainer job. so they should be paid more then me who does office work problem solving, applications interviews and et c. etc. and a lot more then that. if an immigrant that can barely speak english can do this job its not a $15.00 an hour job. this is what happends when you drop out of school or don't bother to learn anything in class. a $7.00 and hour job is what you deserve.
on December 5,2013 | 10:59AM
salsacoquibx wrote:
The thing is they can always good look for a better job..no ways is McDonalds going to pay them 15.00 an hours. Im surprised the the great Union state of Hawaii isnt out their pushing this agenda..lol
on December 5,2013 | 11:18AM
808behappy wrote:
I've noticed that it looks like fast food places such as McDonalds & Jack in box have alot of senior citizen filipino workers now. Would think it would be harder for them to get better jobs because of their age. Many of them work more than one job.
on December 5,2013 | 11:54AM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
Lots of retired folk go back to work at McDonald's (or Wal-Mart, they do the same thing). It's easy work, they get to be around people, and they make a little extra for their time. Working the burger counter was never supposed to be career work, so I can't see $15/hour ever becoming a reality. These folks are going to have to learn a skill and move on.
on December 5,2013 | 01:50PM
localguy wrote:
These dysfunctional people fail to realize fast food jobs are not career jobs unless you are in management. They are just to give workers job experience during high school, college, part time work before moving on to your career job. Now if you can't move on to a career job, not our problem. $15 an hour? Really? Not going to happen. Finish college, go to a trade school, what ever. But don't plan to make being a fast food worker your life time career.
on December 5,2013 | 11:18AM
paniolo wrote:
They just want the easy way out.
on December 5,2013 | 12:40PM
paniolo wrote:
If these people want $15/hour, tell them to look elsewhere. Most of them are less educated and can't do anything else. Let them see what they can find that offers $15/hour. Are they qualified for $15/hour jobs? I doubt it.
on December 5,2013 | 12:34PM
SteveToo wrote:
If you think you can make a "living" and support a family working at a fast food place you must have flunked out of public school Those places are for beginning workers who depend on others to really live well. If they get $15 an hour you can forget your $1 meals and free refills.
on December 5,2013 | 12:47PM
paniolo wrote:
Maybe all the fast food restaurants should "clean house" and require that all applicants have a college degree. How many of these protesters you think going qualify? No $15/hour, no job...TOO BAD.
on December 5,2013 | 12:51PM
hanoz808 wrote:
what are they smoking?
on December 5,2013 | 01:47PM
paniolo wrote:
They knew how much they were going to make when they filled out the application. Nobody FORCED them to apply there. You want $15/hour jobs, APPLY where the $15/hour JOBS ARE.
on December 5,2013 | 05:41PM
paniolo wrote:
If fast food restaurants pay $15/hour, parents would be wasting their money sending their kids to college. Save your money. Just let them work at a fast food restaurant. A lot of college graduates can't even find $15/hour jobs. Fire these protesters and let them find $15/hour jobs on their own.
on December 5,2013 | 06:05PM
Breaking News