Fast-food workers and labor organizers were marching, waving signs and chanting in cities across the country on Thursday amid a push for higher wages.
Organizers say walkouts are planned in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. But it’s not clear what the actual turnout will be, how many of the participants are workers and what impact they’ll have on restaurant operations.
The actions would mark the largest showing yet in a push that began a year ago. At a time when there’s growing national and international attention on economic disparities, labor unions, worker advocacy groups and Democrats are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25, or about $15,000 a year for full-time work.
In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums while marching into a McDonald’s at around 6:30 a.m. One startled customer grabbed his food and fled as they flooded the restaurant, while another customer didn’t look up from eating and reading amid their chants of, “We can’t survive on $7.25!”
Despite the growing attention on the struggles of low-wage workers, the push for higher pay in the fast-food industry faces an uphill battle. The industry competes aggressively on value offerings and companies have warned that they would need to raise prices if wages were hiked. Most fast-food locations are also owned and operated by franchisees, which lets companies such as McDonald’s Corp., Burger King Worldwide Inc. and Yum Brands Inc. say that they don’t control worker pay.
However, labor advocates have pointed out that companies control many other aspects of restaurant operations through their franchise agreements, including menus, suppliers and equipment.