Fast-Food Workers Seeking Raises to Strike in 150 Cities

Fast-food workers in 150 U.S. cities plan to protest this week in what could be the largest strike since the demonstrations began in late 2012.

Thousands of workers from restaurant chains including McDonald’s Corp. and Yum! Brands Inc.’s Pizza Hut are planning to rally on Sept. 4 for $15-an-hour pay and the right to form a union. They will strike in cities such as Chicago, Pittsburgh and Oakland, California, union organizers said.

Fast-food protests are spreading in cities across the U.S., and even overseas, as unrest about low-paying jobs grows. In May, McDonald’s asked corporate employees to stay home after workers demonstrated at its Oak Brook, Illinois headquarters. A year ago, fast-food employees walked off the job in about 50 U.S. cities, ratcheting up pressure on chains to raise wages.

The workers are asking for about 65 percent more than what they make now. U.S. food preparation and serving workers, including fast food, earn $9.08 an hour, on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Delores Leonard makes $8.25 an hour at a McDonald’s in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. The 28-year-old mother of two girls has been working the cash register and grills there for almost six years and hasn’t ever received a raise. That’s why she’s planning to go on strike Thursday.

“I work so hard and it’s still like I’m struggling,” she said in a telephone interview. Leonard says she has trouble buying shoes for her children because she earns just about $600 a month, or $7,200 a year, less than half the U.S. government’s poverty guideline of $19,790 for a family of three.

Companies may face more responsibility for people employed by franchisees. In July, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel determined that McDonald’s has joint responsibility with restaurant owners over how employees are treated. The decision was celebrated by union activists and labor groups, while criticized by retail organizations and McDonald’s.

McDonald’s has more than 14,200 domestic locations, and about 90 percent are owned by franchisees. Yum, which also owns KFC and Taco Bell, has about 18,000 U.S. restaurants.

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