“By far, it will be one of the biggest actions that fast-food workers have taken in this country,” Jonathan Westin, executive director of advocacy group and organizer New York Communities for Change, said in an interview before the strike. The employees want $15-an-hour pay and the right to form a union, he said.
The minimum wage in New York is $7.25 an hour. The strike, which also includes workers from Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW), Domino’s Pizza Inc. (DPZ) and Papa John’s International Inc. (PZZA), follows a similar one in New York in November, where about 200 workers walked off the job.
Employees from about 60 restaurants are striking, which may force some locations to close, Westin said.
“At several of the stores we will have the majority of the workforce in the stores out on strike,” he said. “It will be difficult for businesses to continue as usual.”
A Burger King store in Brooklyn opened late today because of the strike, Miguel Piedra, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail. Burger King restaurants offer pay and benefits that are consistent with the industry, he said.
Tabitha Verges, 29, who has worked at a Burger King in Harlem as a cashier and cook for about four years, was among the company’s employees to walk off the job today.
“I’m fed up and I’m asking for $15 hour and to create a union without intimidation,” said Verges, who makes $7.25 an hour. “I can barely get by,” she said, speaking in a telephone interview. “I borrow from people to pay my bills. I’m trying really hard not to get on welfare.”
McDonald’s rose 1.4 percent to $100.63 at the close in New York. The shares have gained 14 percent this year. Burger King shares were unchanged today and also have advanced 14 percent this year.
“Employees are paid competitive wages and have access to a range of benefits to meet their individual needs,” Heather Oldani, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. The majority of McDonald’s stores are owned and operated by independent business people, she said.
In February, President Barack Obama announced a plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour from $7.25. He also proposed tying the minimum wage to the cost of living. While the current federal minimum wage has been in effect since 2009, some states have mandated higher wages.
New York lawmakers last month passed a budget that includes raising the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour over three years.
“With the city’s high cost of living, the effective minimum wage here is less than $4,” John C. Liu, New York City comptroller, said in an e-mailed statement. The fast-food workers who are striking need a raise, he said.
Last year, Liu proposed raising the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 an hour.
McDonald’s, which has about 14,100 U.S. locations, is the world’s largest restaurant by sales. Globally, about 81 percent of McDonald’s stores are franchised.
Yum Brands owns the KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut chains.
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