Thousands of fast-food workers from restaurants such as McDonald’s Corp. and Wendy’s Co. walked off the job beginning today to protest for higher pay.
Employees of fast-food eateries are striking in New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Missouri, and Flint, Michigan, this week, organizers said in an e-mailed statement. The workers, who also are demanding the right to form a union without retaliation, are organized by groups such as New York Communities for Change, Jobs with Justice and Action Now. The Service Employees International Union is providing money to the campaigns and helping to organize the strikes.
American fast-food and retail workers have been striking this year for higher wages, and the protest starting today seeks wages of $15 an hour, 66 percent higher than the $9.02 that U.S. fast-food cooks earn, on average. In April, employees from McDonald’s and Yum! Brands Inc., which owns the KFC and Taco Bell chains, joined workers from Macy’s Inc. and L Brands Inc.’s Victoria’s Secret chain in walking off the job in Chicago and New York for higher pay.
“With the Occupy movement and discussion about the 1 percent, people are much more aware about the increase in inequality,” Janet Currie, an economics and policy affairs professor at Princeton University, in Princeton, New Jersey, said during an interview. “There are a lot of people right at the top of the distribution who are doing better than that segment of the population has since the 1920s, and that’s driving a lot of the income inequality.”
Occupy Wall Street, which began in 2011 in Manhattan, is a movement against multinational corporations, large banks and the richest 1 percent of people, according to the group’s website. The group has helped to make Americans more aware of income inequality as legislators debate laws about wages and benefits for low-paid workers.
Congress last voted to raise the federal minimum wage in 2007 and President Barack Obama’s call to raise it to $9 an hour from $7.25 has recently gone nowhere with lawmakers. Certain states set minimum wage above the federal standard; minimum hourly pay in Illinois, for example, is $8.25.
McDonald’s Chief Executive Officer Don Thompson said last week that McDonald’s is an “above minimum-wage employer” during an interview on Bloomberg TV. The world’s largest restaurant chain, with more than 14,100 U.S. locations, will continue to provide entry-level jobs, he said.
“The majority of McDonald’s restaurants across the country are owned and operated by independent business men and women where employees are paid competitive wages, and have access to flexible schedules and quality, affordable benefits,” Ofelia Casillas, a spokeswoman for Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s, said in an e-mail.
The leisure and hospitality industry, which includes restaurants, is adding jobs faster than any other sector in the U.S. In June, the sector added 75,000 jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fast-food cooks make $9.02 an hour, or about $18,760 a year, on average, according to 2012 data from the Washington-based agency.
Workers from Burger King Worldwide Inc., Domino’s Pizza Inc. and Subway restaurants are also striking this week.