Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fast food strikes go super-sized in clash over wages

Jeff Cox
Aug. 29, 2013

The battle to boost the minimum wage escalated Thursday when thousands of workers at hundreds of fast food restaurants in 50 U.S. cities walked off the job to demand decent pay.

From San Diego to New York, workers stopped flipping burgers, frying fries, and slathering on secret sauce in what organizers called the largest strikes against the nation's fast food companies ever.

"You're trying to go up and you're just going down," said protester Shantel Walker, 31, of Brooklyn who makes $7.25 working at a Papa John's in Manhattan. "All of us are in the same financial crunch. We're trying to take care of our families and our livelihood."


Workers mobilized in cities from Alameda, Calif., to West Haven, Conn., and across the nation, including several demonstrations in New York City. To date, strikes have been held in one city or the other, or in regions, but nothing like Thursday's national push, according to organizers.


The strike comes as a growing number of minimum wage fast food workers are not teenagers, but adults trying to support families, particularly since the Great Recession. Only 16 percent of fast food industry jobs now go to teens, down from 25 percent a decade ago. More than 42 percent of restaurant and fast-food employees over the age of 25 have at least some college education, including 753,000 with a bachelor's degree or higher, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


... Scott DeFife, executive vice president of policy and government affairs at the National Restaurant Association.

"Nine out of ten salaried restaurant workers, including owners and managers, started as hourly workers. The fact is, only five percent of restaurant employees earn the minimum wage and those that do are predominantly working part-time and half are teenagers," DeFife added.

He said that restaurant jobs provide workers with valuable skills, such as a strong work ethic, that would help them advance their careers.

[Making a little more than the minimum wage doesn't keep you out of poverty. Most restaurant workers are not and never will be salaried.]


Strikers have complained that while revenue is up about 13 percent at fast-food restaurants as of August, it's not being passed on to the workers.


The protests come 50 years after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led hundreds of thousands of Americans in a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. One of their demands was to raise the federal minimum wage to $2 a hour, roughly equivalent to $15 in today's dollars.

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