Protests Held Over Fast Food Wages

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Fast food protests aren’t going away.

Organizers say fast food restaurant workers in 100 U.S. cities, including Cleveland, will walk off the job Thursday, as part of a continuing push to raise wages above $15 an hour in the industry and secure the right to unionize.

Cleveland community organizations, labor groups and faith leaders gathered at noon outside the McDonald’s on Memphis Avenue.

No workers were in attendance, only those advocating for them.

“Their work is valued, there is a support group here.  We do want to bring awareness to the fact that they are being paid poverty wages,” said Pam Rosado.  “And work should be respected and should be paid well, at least a livable wage.”

The movement began with a small walkout in New York City last year and has since gathered momentum. Strikes this past August drew fast food workers in 60 cities, organizers said.

The National Restaurant Association contends that the demonstrations are a “coordinated PR campaign engineered by national labor groups,” and that “relatively few restaurant workers have participated” in past demonstrations.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the events planned for Thursday “are not strikes,” and consist only of outside groups “traveling to McDonald’s and other outlets to stage rallies.”

Industry officials have criticized the campaign, claiming increased starting wages will hold back job growth and increase prices.

The effort has drawn support from the Service Employees International Union, one of the country’s largest, as well as activist groups. A MoveOn.org petition that has drawn nearly 50,000 online signatures calls on industry leaders “to pay your workers $15 an hour so they can make ends meet and Americans can stop paying for the hidden costs of poverty wages.”

In Congress, a group of 53 lawmakers sent letters Wednesday expressing support for higher wages to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s Pizza, Burger King and Yum! Brands, which operates KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

“We are proud to stand with workers who continue to fight for an economy that works for everyone,” the officials wrote.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company is “committed to providing our employees with opportunities to succeed,” offering competitive pay, training and the chance for advancement. Wendy’s said it was proud to give entry-level employees “the opportunity to learn important business and personal skills so they can either grow with us or move on to another career.”

Domino’s rejected the “fast food” label, and said only three of its employees had taken part in the August protests, none of whom were scheduled to work at the time. The pizza maker said its delivery drivers make more than minimum wage with tips included, and that it serves as a second job for many employees who work only evenings and weekends.

“90 percent of our U.S. franchisees started as delivery drivers or at in-store positions,” as did many other managers and corporate staff members, spokesman Tim McIntyre said. “We are a company of opportunity.”

The other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

President Obama also called out the plight of fast food workers in a speech Wednesday, saying they “work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty.” He said it was “past time” to raise the minimum wage.

A report released in October by the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center and the University of Illinois found that 52% of families of fast food workers receive some form of public assistance. The report estimated that this aid carries a $7 billion annual price tag for taxpayers.

The median pay for the fast food workers nationwide is just over $9 an hour, or about $18,500 a year. That’s roughly $4,500 lower than Census Bureau’s poverty income threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four.

The rallies planned for Thursday follow protests last week at a number of Wal-Mart locations, where workers and activists have called on the company to grant workers more hours and pay full-time employees at least $25,000 a year.

–By James O’Toole, CNN

–FOX 8 contributed to this CNN report

60 comments

  • Jason

    They should worry about getting my order right first. When they start caring about the work they do and looking at it as a representation of themselves then they can move their attention to something else. BTW, I did 7 yrs of produce at a grocery store to work my way through college so I know what it’s like to be paid min wage.

  • John

    Whatever happened to the attitude that many of our us, our parents, grandparents, etc used to have about opportunity? Many of them saw the opportunity to work at a fast food restaurant. They knew they were not going to make it rich doing so, but they made money and gained skills so they could go on to that better job.

  • Kya

    Fire fighter/ paramedics who run into burning buildings and risk their lives to save others do not even make this much an hour!!! Go get an education and then go on strike! $15/hr my fries better always be fresh, and my food should never be wrong.!!!! That’s all I’m saying!

    • Brian P

      Maybe they should show some heart like these workers, Stand up for Themselves and their coworkers, and then they’d make a change for the better too!

  • Dezso Horvat

    All you people wanting $15 job and feel you are entitled to it make me sick. When I come to this country and not know the language very well. I had no real skills but I come to cleveland area because freinds here and tell me I can find work here. I came here with nothing and went looking for job that would hire me with no skills. I found job at fast food place and tried that for some time. I had people spitt on me and call me names because of my accent and where I from. It not matter to me because I had pride in me that i had a job and was getting paid. I went on and look for better job because of communication issue I have at that time. My language get better with time but i never would have been able to writ this back then. I go from job to job looking for better opportunity. Eventually I get in welding school and learn a trade that is now supporting me very good. I Have house that I am paying on and a nice car.

    The problem with America is so much waste. So much taken for granted and so much wasted. Not in conventional sense of throwing stuff in garbage but thorwing opportunity away or wanting thing because of excess. Why do you need $15 job? Is is because you need to support your family or because you want to support your lifestyle? If it to support family than i can understand but many just say that but they really want to support lifestyle of rich and famous. We are not rich and famous. Yes, I want nice things but not just so I can keep up with everyone else. If I can pay my bills buy food and other things I need then it okay for me to buy nice things. Many people want to not pay bills and other things and go and get nice things. You cant have it that way.

    The reason minimum wage so low is so you better yourself and get more opportunity and make more money but with more experience and more skills. The problem with America is that we make it to easy on poor people with all this help and that help and they never want to get off there lazy big butt and go better themself. When I came to this county I could have gotten help but I refused to. Maybe I am to proud to take money from government but where I come from you earn what you make and people dont just give you it.

  • reed

    how about this. get an education. you’ve got to be kidding me. I make $14 for part time job after 2.5 yrs of education and continuing education.

    • Brian P

      I went through a 4 year apprenticeship. I make $30/hr plus $19/hr in benefits. That’s the beauty of standing up with your fellow coworkers! I’ll go out on a limb and say you’re not in a union….
      I support these workers. they are showing some heart and standing up for themselves. That alone ensures they will be victorious!

  • Rick Gilger

    im sorry to say all my friends that have worked at fast food joints were going to school or looking for better employment. these places are and always have been for teenage kids and seniors suplimenting soc. security.if you want better paying jobs stop voting for job killing politicians, and young people go to school and stop taking drugs that keep you from getting better paying jobs.i have many friends in the manufacturing field who can’t get qualified applicants because 8 out of ten cant pass drug tests, sorry cant support this

  • Brian P

    The argument that “skilled” workers don’t make that much so why should “unskilled” workers, is quite illogical. These workers deserve it because they’re willing to stand up for it! Standing up for yourself and your coworkers IS “working” for a raise and a better job. If the “skilled” workers would get some courage and stand up to their employers, they too would earn more!

  • janice

    I understand fast food workers want more money.. I worked at Mcdonalds in my younger years.. Its very hard work for those of you who think its easy.. BUT… with companies laying off and no jobs out there even with a colleged education I would not be asking for a ridiculous amount for wages. Yes its hard work but not worth $ 15.00 and hour. I don’t earn $ 15.00 an hour and i work in an office. I just make sure I dont live above my mieans.. I have no credit cards or payments on anything other then my car. I have basic cable and basic cell phone service.. There are so many people who lost jobs that would gladly take your job so may want to be a bit more realistic. I can see standing up for your rights but $ 15.00 an hour is crazy… If you dont like your job or expect to make more then most working at Mcdonalds or any other fast food place then quit so someone who really needs a job can take yours and be happy knowing they can at least put a little food on the table for thier family.

  • tammy

    10.00 not 15.00 that would be makeing more instantly that people working harder jobs for years have still not reached. They are just heating up already prepared food. I see mc.d as a place for kids to make extra money and a start in job field not a career choice. If it goes to $15.00 i will stop going there.because the thought of them makeing more thN my husband building motors for the rta for ten years will make me sick

  • Bori

    They do need an increase on their wages they do have management positions I don’t think $15 but at least to $10 they do serve customers just like any other business…if u want a good service at least pay them with respect…cleaning after others is not a job requirement but they do with a smile on the face..so now I have to worry when i order no tomatoes next time they will be like get it out your self or go home and make your own food for ur family..they do have lots of patience and discipline…some people are disable and they work there just not to be a government food stamp ,so I guess is ok for them to sit a home and we support them….Come on….

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