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article imageFast-food workers in nearly 100 cities plan 'walk off' protest

By Natty Walker     Dec 4, 2013 in Business
In a push for higher pay, fast-food workers in nearly 100 cities will walk off the job on Thursday, according to protest organizers.
The purpose of this protest is to build on a campaign that was put in motion nearly one year ago to call attention to the difficulties of living on federal minimum wage. Currently, federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour, which is around $15,000 per year for a full-time employee. However, individual states have the power to raise that amount in their state.
There is a movement in which the protestors are contributing to raise pay in low wage sectors of the United States. The main organizers of the movement are labor unions, Democrat leaders, and other worker advocacy groups, such as Service Employees International Union.
Even President Obama has weighed in on the minimum wage issue. Last month, he voiced that he would indeed back a Senate measure to raise minimum wage all the way to $10.10 per hour. Protestors, however, are hoping for more around the $15.00 mark. Though, it is more of a rallying point than a foreseeable option.
As with any protest, it is impossible to predict just how many people will show up at any location. It is also unclear whether or not the "walk offs" will disrupt the restaurants' operations, as is the intention. Similar protests were organized this summer with varying results. Some restaurants were unable to serve customers, while others were seemingly unaffected.
A lobby group for the restaurant industry, National Restaurant Association, referred to the earlier demonstrations as a "campaign engineered by labor groups." The National Restaurant Association also stated that the vast majority of participants were union protestors rather than restaurant workers. In addition, the Association added that many past demonstrations "have fallen short of their purported numbers."
An organizer for Fast Food Forward, Kendall Fells, stated that 100 demonstrations are planned in 100 cities, in addition to the 100 walk off protests. Fells also said the plans began to form after the one day protests in nearly 60 cities this summer. He added, "They understand they're not going to win from a one-day strike," in reference to the restaurant workers.
Organizers advocating on behalf of the fast-food workers face an uphill battle. The industry competes aggressively on low menu prices, which has intensified as traditional fast-food chains face new competition. McDonalds Corp., Burger King Worldwide Inc., and Yum Brands Inc. have all faced slow growth throughout the weak economy. Not only that, fast-food workers are viewed as difficult to unionize because of the high turnover rates amongst employees.
However, fast-food lobbyists are not alone in fighting for higher wages. Service Employees International Union represents more than 2 million workers in healthcare, janitorial, and other similar industries. For more than a year, this union has been providing organizational and financial support to the push for higher pay. In addition, a political consulting and public relations firm based in New York City, Berlin Rosen, has also been helping protest organizers connect with media outlets and coordinate communication efforts.
By the end of this year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has promised there will be a vote on the wage hike. Yet, the proposition is not expected to pass in the House, where Republican leaders vehemently oppose it. The same issue was raised earlier this year, and received unanimous down votes from House Republicans.
In individual states, however, the "wage wars" have been more successful. In New Jersey, voters approved raising minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour. California, New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut also raised minimum wage similarly this year.
Mary Kay Henry, President of Service Employees International Union, credits protests with helping encourage more states to raise the minimum wage. As unions keep pressure on fast-food companies, the number of cities and protest participants is expected to grow even more in 2014. "I think we've totally changed the conversation about what these jobs are worth," Henry said. "These are no longer jobs being done by teenagers who need extra money. These are jobs being done by adults that can't find any other work."
Currently, the state of Washington has the highest state minimum wage at $9.19 per hour.
Fast food workers attend a protest against McDonald s outside one of its restaurants in New York Dec...
Fast food workers attend a protest against McDonald's outside one of its restaurants in New York December 5, 2013
With permission by Reuters / Eduardo Munoz
A customer reads a newspaper inside as fast food workers attend a protest against McDonald s outside...
A customer reads a newspaper inside as fast food workers attend a protest against McDonald's outside one of its restaurants in New York, December 5, 2013
With permission by Reuters / Eduardo Munoz
Fast food workers attend a protest against McDonald s outside one of its restaurants in New York Dec...
Fast food workers attend a protest against McDonald's outside one of its restaurants in New York December 5, 2013
With permission by Reuters / Eduardo Munoz
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