Largest Fast-Food Worker Strikes Yet Hit Cities Nationwide

Fast Food Workers Strike, Protest Low Wages
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

NEW YORK -- Fast-food customers in search of burgers and fries 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 Thursday, part of a push to get chains such as McDonald's (MCD), Taco Bell (YUM) and Wendy's (WEN) 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 over the summer when about 2,200 of the nation's millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities.

Thursday's planned walkouts follow a series of strikes that began last 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 hike the federal minimum wage, which was last raised in 2009.
But most proposals seek a far more modest increase than the ones workers are asking for, with President Barack 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 if the strikes on Thursday will shut down any restaurants because organizers made their plans public earlier in a call for workers around the country to participate, which gave 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.

Laila Jennings, a 29-year-old sales associate at T.J. Maxx, was eating at a McDonald's in New York City this week and said she hadn't heard of the movement. Still, she said she thinks fast-food workers should be paid more. "They work on their feet all day," Jennings said, adding that $12 to $15 an hour seemed fair.

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 boyfriend, who is unemployed, 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 take part in the strike Thursday.

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.

"It's really hard," she said. "If I didn't have public assistance to help me out, I think I would have been out on the street already with the money I make at McDonald's."

McDonald's and Burger King Worldwide (BKW) say that they don't make decisions about pay for the independent franchisees that operate the majority of their U.S. restaurants.

For the restaurants it does own, McDonald's said in a statement that pay starts at minimum wage but the range goes higher, depending on the employee's position and experience level. It said that raising entry-level wages would mean higher overall costs, which could result in higher prices on menus.

"That would potentially have a negative impact on employment and business growth in our restaurants, as well as value for our customers," the company said in a statement.

The Wendy's Co. and Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, did not respond to a request for comment.

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, noting that fast-food chains are already facing higher costs for ingredients, as well as new regulations that will require them to pay more in health care costs.

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 people living on low wages are 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, president of the Service Employees International Union, which is providing the fast-food strikers 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.

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we can't have working people making that much money , because the CEO's wouldn't be able to make their millions of dollars........................SOLIDARITY FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!

August 29 2013 at 8:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Fast food workers demanding 15 dollars an hour? What a joke.

Tell me, why should I have to pay taxes to support the welfare state? Why should I HAVE TO PAY FOR YOUR MISTAKES???

If you cannot afford to have children, THEN DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!

Sterilize all people on welfare. Problem solved immediately.

August 29 2013 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not one person on here has even discussed the effects on the rest of the working people. This is the Unions way to further destroy the Middle Class. If businessess are forced to raise minium wage to $15 an hour (they won't) that would be a 50% raise in wages. Now we all know that the cost of living will go up because of this. Now the people who already making $15-$20 hour and worked hard in their job to get those raises for the last 3-5 years. Do you think their companies are going to increase their pay by 50%. Don't think so. That means in the end the hard working people who worked to get the pay now will be taking a pay cut as the COLA will increase while they do not get a raise. And that is how the Unions will continue to destroy the Middle Class.
I kept it simple but we know that the low informational people will need more information

August 29 2013 at 7:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mr.Dallas Cowboy

I\'m not sure how this will play out. But here\'s a thought that is already taking place in parts of the work sector. Employment of new employees at some casinos are on a partime basis and no benifits, because of the new Obama Health Care program. Not all Fast Food restaurants are company owened, but the same result might apply to them as well. As we all would like a raise to helps us better provide for our family, asking for double our present pay just isn\'t being realistic, and asking to be represented by a union which requires dues that will cut into your earnings is not always a wise choice either. So here are the questions: Do you want to work full time with some benifits or partime work and no benifits or quit working with no income or benifits. Putting pride aside, some income is better than zero income. I\'ll close with this thought. If the government goes bust, living on the Plantation may not be a wise choice either.

August 29 2013 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gilbert R Albright J


Burger Patty depending on size - 18 cents, 48 cents, and 68 cents
Grilled Chicken Patty - 66 cents
Crispy Chicken Patty - 67 cents
Sausage Patty - 13 cents
1 McNugget - 6 cents
1 Egg - 9 cents
Filet O Fish Patty - 35 cents
Candian Bacon Slice - 14 cents
Hot Cakes - 8.3 cents
French Fries - 3.44 a huge bag for multiple servings
Yogart Mix - 4.14 a large bag for multiple servings
Slice Of Cheese - 6 cents
Hamburger Bun - 8 cents
Bacon - 16 cents
Tomatoes - 16 cents
McNugget Sauce - 6 cents
Paper Napkins - .001 cents
Plastic Straw - 5 cents
Ketchup Packet - 1 cent
Biscuits - 10 cents
Muffins - 10 cents
12 oz Soft Drink no ice - 26 cents for Coke - 16 cents for others

Info Link:

August 29 2013 at 6:21 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Gilbert R Albright J

McDonalds profits are 20.4% or their revenue, which is double and triple
that of some other businesses.

Look at the chart: Profits as % of Revenues 20.4


Walmart gets by on a 3.5% profit margin.

Look at the Chart: Profits as % of Revenues 3.5

The Supermarket industry operates on a 1 to 2 percent profit margin


McDonalds makes 2/3's of its profits from the 25% of the restaurants they own, and the rent they charge the franchise owners of the other 75% of their restaurants. They actually make more money from rent than they do food sales!

If they would lower the rents on the franchise owners, then they would have enough money to pay a $15.00 an hour wage and still make a profit, with nobody losing their job.

McDonalds has one of the highest profit margins of any business in America averaging 18 to 20%!

The only people that would be hurt by lowering the rent fee to franchise owners would be the wealthy investors and stock holders who don't need the money to live on in the first place.

August 29 2013 at 6:21 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gilbert R Albright J's comment

you know nothing about supermarkets if you think thats all they make is 2 percent . i been in the retail grocery most of my life . ( well 38 years )
think again next time you pick up some thing in a store . avg mark up in a supermarket 24 percent . meat dairy fruits higher .,

September 03 2013 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When they price theirselves out of that part-time job they'll really be crying

August 29 2013 at 5:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My sister-in-law works in Chicago for MacDonalds and she said that the people that were picketing in front of her store did not work at her store and everybody that works at her store showed up for work today. One of her workers said that she didn't want to pay union dues to line a unions pocket. Go figure.

August 29 2013 at 4:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

be able to support a child before you decide to have one

August 29 2013 at 4:39 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Leonard Solie

If this passes, we will have a higher rate of people deciding to NOT attend college and you will pay $9.00 for a Big Mac, how does that sound?

August 29 2013 at 4:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply