Group Seeks Union, Pay Raises for NYC Fast-Food Workers

Fast-food workers in New York are scheduled to protest today as part of a campaign to seek union recognition for the industry and negotiate pay raises.

“Hundreds of workers at dozens of McDonalds, Taco Bells, KFCs and Burger Kings across the city” will call for a $15 per hour wage so employees can “support their families, and put money back into the economy, instead of relying on taxpayers to shoulder the burden for the fast food industry’s low-wages,” according to a statement for the workers’ campaign, called Fast Food Forward.

“The goal is to put money back in the pockets of the 50,000 men and women who work hard in the city’s fast food industry -- but still can’t afford basic necessities like food, clothing, and rent -- to help get New York’s economy moving again,” according to the statement from BerlinRosen, which consults on political and public affairs campaigns. The workers also seek “the right to form a union without interference.”

The rallies will start at 6:30 a.m. New York time and continue through the day at fast-food outlets across the city. The campaign is backed by community and civil rights groups, religious leaders and a labor union and has engaged 40 full-time organizers in recent months to enlist workers at McDonald’s Corp., Wendy’s Co., Domino’s Pizza Inc., Yum! Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell and other fast-food chains across the city, the New York Times reported yesterday.

Median pay for fast-food workers in the city is about $9 an hour -- or about $18,500 a year for a full-time worker, the Times reported, citing the New York state Labor Department.

Cheryll Forsatz, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s, said in an e-mail that the company has “an open dialogue with our employees” and encourages them “to express any concerns or provide feedback.” She said most McDonald’s restaurants are owned by “independent business men and women who offer pay and benefits competitive within the quick service restaurant industry.”

The campaign follows action last week by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. workers who protested against the company’s hours and benefits.