New York • Fast-food customers in search of burgers and fries on Thursday might run into striking workers instead.
Organizers say thousands of fast-food workers are set to stage walkouts in dozens of cities around the country, part of a push to get chains such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s to pay workers higher wages.
It’s expected be the largest nationwide strike by fast-food workers, according to organizers. Thursday’s planned walkouts follow a series of strikes that began in November in New York City, then spread to cities including Chicago, Detroit and Seattle. Workers say they want $15 an hour, which would be about $31,000 a year for full-time employees. That’s more than double the federal minimum wage, which many fast-food workers make, of $7.25 an hour or $15,000 a year.
The move comes amid calls from the White House, some members of Congress and economists to hike the federal minimum wage, which was last raised in 2009. But most proposals seek a far more modest increase than the ones workers are asking for, with President Barack Obama wanting to boost it to $9 an hour.
The push has brought considerable media attention to a staple of the fast-food industry — the so-called “McJobs” known for their low pay and limited prospects. But the workers taking part in the strikes still represent a tiny fraction of the broader industry. And it’s not clear if the strikes on Thursday will shut down any restaurants because organizers made their plans public earlier in a call for workers around the country to participate, which gave managers time to adjust their staffing levels.
Fast-food workers say they can’t live on what they’re paid.
Shaniqua Davis, 20, lives in the Bronx with her boyfriend, who is unemployed, and their 1-year-old daughter. Davis has worked at a McDonald’s a few blocks from her apartment for the past three months, earning $7.25 an hour. Her schedule varies, but she never gets close to 40 hours a week. “Forty? Never.”
Her weekly paycheck is $150 or much lower. “One of my paychecks, I only got $71 on there. So I wasn’t able to do much with that. My daughter needs stuff, I need to get stuff for my apartment,” said Davis, who plans to take part in the strike Thursday.
She pays the rent with public assistance but struggles to afford food, diapers, subway and taxi fares, cable TV and other expenses with her paycheck.
“If I didn’t have public assistance to help me out, I think I would have been out on the street already with the money I make at McDonald’s,” she said.
McDonald’s Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. say that they don’t make decisions about pay for the independent franchisees that operate the majority of their U.S. restaurants. For the restaurants it does own, McDonald’s said that pay starts at minimum wage but the range goes higher, depending on the position and experience level. It said that raising entry-level wages would mean higher overall costs, which could result in higher prices on menus.