NY Fast-Food Workers Strike to Improve Wages

Workers at about 50 restaurants plan to walk off the job to protest low wages and lack of union protections.

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A fast-food worker prepares a hamburger. (AFP/Getty Images)

New York City's fast-food workers planned to walk off the job on Thursday in what organizers promised would be the largest-ever strike against the fast-growing, virtually union-free industry, Salon reports. Will employers give in to their demands?

The workers are demanding that chains like McDonald's and Wendy's raise their wages to $15 an hour and allow them to organize a union without retaliation. The campaign expected over 400 workers from 50-some stores to participate in the surprise strike, doubling the size of their previous walkout and potentially shutting down several fast food restaurants for the day.

"Obviously, it will piss off our bosses even more than before," KFC worker Joe Barrera told Salon in a pre-strike interview. Barrera, 22, said that over his seven years in the industry, "we've had our complaints, but no one actually spoke out about it ... I guess people were finally tired of the disrespect, under-compensation, being overworked, not having steady schedules and times, not having enough hours -- basically, being played around with." Workers from Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's, Domino's, Papa John's, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are also expected to join the strike ...

Fast food is becoming an ever-larger and more representative sector of the U.S. economy. "We should think of these jobs as the norm," said Columbia University political scientist Dorian Warren, "because even when you look at the high-skilled, high-paying jobs, they're even adopting the low-wage model" of management. That means erratic schedules, paltry benefits, and -- so far -- almost no unions. "These are the quintessential example of the kinds of jobs that we have now," said Warren, "and of the kind of job that we can expect in the future for the next few decades."

Asked yesterday about recent labor protests, a McDonald's spokesperson emailed a statement saying, "We value and respect all the employees who work at McDonald's restaurants" and that the majority of its stores are franchisee-run restaurants "where employees are paid competitive wages, and have access to flexible schedules and quality, affordable benefits."

Read more at Salon.

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