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Fast-food strikes: Coming to your city this week

Stephon Johnson | 12/5/2013, 2:14 p.m.
Midday demonstrations began outside a Wendy’s restaurant in the Financial District, where a growing crowd included fast-food employees, activists and legislators.

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Tamerra Griffin photos

Tamara Green, who currently works as a cook at Burger King, joined many other fast-food employees at the July 29 “Day of Action.”

An ongoing movement sparked by a demand for a living wage and better benefits will hit the American public with another dose of worker solidarity this Thursday, one year after the first mass strike around the country. Fast-food workers in 100 cities were expected to walk off their jobs in support of better wages ($15 an hour) and benefits from the $200 billion industry and the right to form a union without interference from management.

And no fast-food business will be left unscathed. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC are all expected to experience worker walkouts. Every region of the country will be covered. Clergy, elected officials and community supporters were all expected to join fast-food workers on the picket lines in every city—including Oakland, Calif., and Tampa, Fla.—that’ll hold strikes.

The increased focus of the fast-food workers’ movement stems from a report released in October that revealed that over 52 percent of their brethren rely on public assistance for food or medical issues, which cost American taxpayers more than $7 billion. McDonald’s most recently reported that its profits were $5.5 billion.

Some groups decided not to wait until Thursday, however, and staged walkouts early.

On Wednesday, MoveOn.org members protested at McDonald’s locations in five different cities—Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago—and delivered a petition started by Low Pay is Not Okay on MoveOn.org’s petition platform. The petition, which was addressed to McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Papa John’s and Subway, also demanded a $15-an-hour living wage for all employees.

New York City Mayor-elect and current Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has already spoken out in favor of paying workers a living wage. During a speech at the New School in Greenwich Village in October, the mayor-to-be spoke about his plan to reduce income inequality. He said that the 2012 living wage law that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn allowed to pass left out too many workers, “carving out exceptions for 70,000 manufacturing jobs, the Hudson Yards development, grocery stores participating in the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health program and a range of other businesses.”

De Blasio said that the living wage law should be pegged to increases in the cost of living over any development that receives over $1 million in subsidies from the city.