Demonstrators in support of fast-food workers protest on July 29 outside a McDonald's in New York City's Union Square.
(USA TODAY) -- Striking workers at McDonald's and other fast-food chains conducted
walkouts in nearly 60 cities Thursday, hoping for super-size wage hikes
that for many would boost their hourly pay to $15 from the current
federal minimum $7.25.
The pre-Labor Day walkout, which follow a
series of strikes that began last November in New York City. targeted
fast-food chains including McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Yum
Brands, whose chains include KFC and Taco Bell. Workers are also seeking
the right to unionize.
Strike organizers, a loose confederation
of local community groups and churches which has received some financial
and training support from the Service Employees International Union,
say restaurants in Milwaukee, Detroit and St. Louis had to close, at
least temporarily, because of employee walkouts.
New York, City
Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined about 300 to 400 workers and
supporters Thursday in a march before the group flooded into a
McDonald's near the Empire State Building. Shortly after the
demonstration, however, the restaurant seemed to be operating normally.
Detroit, home to an estimated 53,000 fast-food workers, walkouts and
protests hit at least two McDonald's Thursday morning. A dozen workers
didn't show up for their shift at a McDonald's on 8 Mile Road, forcing
the closure of the dining room, though the drive-through was open, local
protest spokeswoman Darci McConnell said. Another protest was under way
at a McDonald's on West Grand Boulevard. Protests were also planned or
under way in Pontiac, Flint and Lansing.
"The bottom line is we
are doing this to let the corporations know we want $15 an hour, better
working conditions - and we want to be treated fairly, " said the Rev.
W.J. Rideout III of Detroit's All God's People Church.
cities, including Chicago, workers disrupted lunch-hour traffic. In
Washington state, where the minimum hourly wage is $9.19, some Seattle
Starbucks workers unexpectedly joined in a walkout.
In Indianapolis, several employees walked off the job from a McDonald's outlet at 16th and Meridian streets.
people here have a family to support, and most people here barely make
enough to make ends meet,'' McDonald's employee Dwight Murray said.
"We're here today because we feel like McDonald's is a $6 billion entity
and it's not unfeasible for them to pay $15 an hour."
The restaurant remained open during the strike, staffed by employees who opted not to participate.
they work hard every day for all day long and they don't get paid
enough wages to put food on the table and to support their families,
then we as a community suffer," said Fran Quigley, a clinical professor
at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, who was lending support to
workers at the Indianapolis McDonald's.
workers who earn too little, he said, by paying for food stamps and
other entitlement programs in which many low-wage workers participate.
Profitable corporations employing such workers often make enough money
to increase those workers' wages, Quigley said.
workers earn just $7.25, which works out to about $15,000 for
full-timers. More than 25% of Americans earning less than $15 an hour
receive one or more social services, such as food stamps and Medicaid,
the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says.
observers and representatives say a $15 hourly wage, which would boost
annual salaries to about $31,200, would likely force most restaurants
to pass on higher costs to customers, crimping already tepid sales and
forcing employers to cut workers.
Industry tracker NPD says
restaurants already face a challenging post-Recession environment.
Raising wages more than 100% "is not in the realm of feasibility,' NPD
analyst Bonnie Riggs says.
"Margins are already squeezed because
consumers have been cutting back,'' Riggs says. "The restaurant
industry has had to discount heavily just to keep people coming through
the door. And there would have to be significant prices increase to
absorb the cost of higher wages."
Moreover the restaurant industry says many fast-food positions are held by younger and part-time workers.
industry is the embodiment of the American dream for many workers,"
said Justin Winslow, head of government affairs with the Michigan
Restaurant Association. "Eighty percent of restaurant owners started at
the bottom and 90% of managers started in entry-level jobs. There's an
obvious ladder to move up."
In a statement, the National Retail Federation condemned the strike efforts.
publicity stunt is just further proof that the labor movement is not
only facing depleted membership rolls, they have abdicated their role in
an honest and rational discussion about the American workforce."
Still, strikers were getting support from consumers.
Carter, a 29-year-old who bought a $1 cup of coffee at a New York
McDonald's targeted by protesters, said he "absolutely" supports demand
for higher wages.
"They work harder than the billionaires in this city," said Carter, who doesn't plan to stop patronizing the fast-food chain.
More walkouts were in the works for late afternoon and early evening.
In Wausua, Wis., Wendy's worker DuWayne Lewis planned to join fellow workers in an 4 p.m. walkout.
With seven children, including one in college, money is tight for Lewis, who makes $7.25 an hour.
can't live off this, but it's all I've got," Lewis said. "I need to
work. But it's hard to pay the bills and put food on the table with this
kind of pay. I've got seven girls to take care of."
who prepares food at the same restaurant as Lewis, won't participate in
the strike for fear of losing her job. Wilde said she would like to
protest the company's failure to provide health insurance for many of
"If you walk out on your job, that's grounds for dismissal," Wilde said. "I can't do that."
But Lewis said he hopes more fast-food workers will be inspired by strikers.
don't know what my coworkers will do, but I hope when they see me
strike, and they see the support behind me, they'll join in."