Fast-food workers protest wages

NEW YORK— Labor organizers turned up the pressure on McDonald’s and other fast-food chains to raise worker pay on Thursday, with plans to stage actions in more than 30 countries.

The demonstrations build on a campaign by unions to bring attention to the plight of low-wage workers and get the public behind the idea of a $15-an-hour wage.

Industry groups say such pay hikes would hurt their ability to create jobs and note that many of the participants are not workers.

The protests are being backed by the Service Employees International Union and began in New York City in late 2012. Since then, organizers have steadily ramped up actions to keep the issue in the spotlight.

In March, for instance, lawsuits filed in three states accused McDonald’s of denying breaks and engaging in other practices that deprive employees of their rightful pay. Workers were referred to lawyers by union organizers, who announced protests over “wage theft” the following week.

Organizers say workers across the country walked off the job on Thursday, including 20 from a restaurant in St. Louis that had to temporarily close as a result. But turnouts have varied and the scope of actions planned for overseas also differed depending on the country.

In Seattle, workers started Thursday with a rally a Cal Anderson Park. Strike locations were announced through the day, followed by a 4 p.m. rally at Westlake Park downtown.

In Denmark, McDonald’s worker Louise Marie Rantzau said a collective agreement with McDonald’s in the country prevents workers from protesting the chain. But Rantzau, who earns about $21 an hour under the agreement, and workers planned to demonstrate outside Burger King or other restaurants and post photos on social media.

Images on social media showed workers demonstrating in places including Dublin and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

In New York City, a couple hundred demonstrators beat drums, blew whistles and chanted in the rain outside a Domino’s for about a half hour. Among those who took turns speaking were local lawmakers, community leaders and fast-food workers.

“Corporations are able to make money— millions and billions of dollars. We should be able to make a decent salary so we can take care of our families,” said Sheila Brown, a mother of four who works at a KFC.

In Philadelphia, 19-year-old Justice Wallace said she earns $7.50 an hour and was on strike because she wants $15 an hour and a union.

“It’s a poverty wage. We can’t live off of it,” she said.

Although many customers say they’re not aware of the ongoing actions, the campaign has captured national media attention at a time when the income gap between the rich and poor has widened and executive pay packages have come under greater scrutiny.

President Barack Obama has also been working to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The current rate of $7.25 an hour translates to about $15,000 a year, assuming a person works 40 hours a week.

Still, fast-food workers have historically been considered difficult to unionize, since many are part-timers who don’t stay on the job for long. But supporters say that is changing, with more people relying on such jobs to support families. Last week, workers and union representatives from countries including Argentina, China, El Salvador, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom met in New York City to strategize for the day of global actions.

McDonald’s, which has more than 35,000 locations globally, said the debate over wages needed to take into account “the highly competitive nature of the industries that employ minimum wage workers.”

The National Restaurant Association called the actions “nothing more than big labor’s attempt to push their own agenda.”

More in Herald Business Journal

Health-care consumers need to take the lead, so get smart

David Russian, CEO of Western Washington Medical Group, writes our third essay about fixing health care.

Robots on Wall Street: Slow-footed regulators lose ground

Watchdogs have to figure out how to check computers running lightening-fast algorithms.

More business, more competition for Everett kidney dialysis center

Nonprofit Puget Sound Kidney Centers sees large for-profit competitors enter state market.

Molina Medical holds fall carnival for families in Everett

Molina Medical is hosting a free event for families in the Everett… Continue reading

Leadership Snohomish County celebrates 20 years of service

Leadership Snohomish County is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The organization was launched… Continue reading

Snohomish, Monroe manufacturers honored for innovation, excellence

Two Snohomish County companies have been honored with Manufacturing Excellence awards at… Continue reading

Remodeled home tours planned this weekend

This weekend, Edmonds-based Chermak Construction will participate in the 2017 Remodeled Homes… Continue reading

Barron Heating to celebrate anniversary at Marysville showroom

Barron Heating and Air Conditioning is celebrating its 45th anniversary from 10… Continue reading

US budget deficit hits $666B, an $80B spike for the year

The deficit issue has largely fallen in prominence in Washington in recent years.

Most Read