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For Protest Organizers, Fast-Food Unions Remain a Tall Order

Fast-food workers protest at a McDonald's restaurant on Fifth Avenue in New York on Aug. 29
Fast-food workers protest at a McDonald's restaurant on Fifth Avenue in New York on Aug. 29Photograph by Richard Drew/AP Photo

Fast-food workers are set to protest for higher wages again on Thursday. A year since the first in a series of multi-city protests began in New York, organizers have yet to engage in any formal discussions with corporations about increasing pay and forming unions. To organizers, results that appear like a disappointing standstill are framed as early stages of an industrywide movement.

The goal is to form fast-food unions for collective bargaining, according to Kendall Fells, a coordinator at Service Employees International Union (which provides support and funding for the protests) and an organizer for Fast Food Forward, a New York-based campaign for higher wages. With 3.9 million workers at quick-service restaurants, “it makes more sense for them to be in a union that is specifically created for fast-food workers,” Fells says.