Fast Food Strikes Will Hit 100 Cities On Thursday


A New York City protest in support of McDonald's workers in March 2013

Fast food workers will stage a one-day strike against their employers in 100 cities on Thursday, activists told the New York Times’s Steven Greenhouse. Strikes will take place for the first time in some cities, such as Charleston, SC; Providence, RI; and Pittsburgh, PA.

They’ll also stage protests in an additional 100 cities, activists say.

The strikes will be the latest after fast food workers walked out in August in the largest action ever, which took place in more than 50 different cities. The strikes began a year ago this November with 200 workers staging a one-day strike at more than 20 restaurants in New York City, “the first such walkout in the history of the nation’s fast-food industry,” Greenhouse writes. Since then they have spread dramatically, beginning in cities in the northeast and then spreading to the midwest and south.

Striking workers have been demanding a raise to $15 an hour and the right to form a union. While industry groups claim that only a small portion of their jobs pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and those are mostly entry-level jobs, median wages are only around $8.85. Many argue these low-wage jobs are meant just for teenagers trying to make a little extra money, but studies have shown that people ages 25 to 54 hold the largest share of the country’s fast food jobs, and nearly 70 percent earn between $7.26 (just above the minimum wage) and $10.09. More than a quarter are supporting a child. And these poorly paid jobs are rarely a starting point to move up the corporate ladder: less than 9 percent of the industry’s employees become supervisors and just 2.2 percent hold managerial jobs.

These jobs pay so little, in fact, that fast food workers consume $243 billion in public benefits each year, such as food stamps and Medicaid, just to get by. They are also far more likely to be enrolled in these programs that the general workforce. McDonald’s itself has recognized how little its workers make by creating a budget template that suggests getting a second job and going without heat and advising its workers to sell Christmas presents for cash.

Yet fast food jobs represent a growing part of the economy. About half the jobs created during the recovery from the recession have been low pay, and they have increasingly replaced mid-wage jobs that existed before the crash. The growth in these jobs and the increasingly loud call from workers for a raise have been factors in the momentum behind a minimum wage raise at the federal level, where it has stagnated for four years and would be more than $10 an hour if it had grown with inflation or over $22 an hour if it had kept up with income growth at the very top. President Obama has backed a raise to $10 an hour and voters also support it. They increased wages on election day this year, including a raise to $15 an hour in a town in Washington state.