Fast-food workers across the United States are planning to stage a strike on Thursday, escalating their nearly year-long campaign for better wages and for the right to unionize, to a nationwide protest.
Employees of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonald’s and other outlets will walk off their jobs in nearly 58 cities across the country, and retail employees of Macy's Inc, Sears Holdings Corp and Dollar Tree Inc. are expected to join them in some cities, the workers’ campaign, called Fast Food Forward, said in a Facebook statement.
Workers are demanding that the federal minimum wage limit in the service sector be increased to $15 an hour from the current $7.25. The workers' campaign said that striking employees will also hold a protest in New York's Union Square at 2.30 p.m. EDT.
“We will march against low-wages in one of the fastest growing industries in New York. We won’t settle for a system where we can’t raise a family, and barely support ourselves,” organizers said in the Facebook statement.
The campaign for better wages gathered momentum after about 200 employees from many New York City fast-food restaurants went on strike last November. This strike was followed by similar protests in June and in July, when fast-food workers in other cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis walked off their jobs.
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The current median pay for fast-food workers is $8.94 an hour, according to an analysis of government data by the National Employment Law Project, Reuters reported. Workers say that they get an average annual pay of $10,000 -- an income that is not sufficient to support their families.
Workers are also demanding their right to organize and to form unions.
“Workers are still facing unlawful practices in response to their organizing, including terminations, reduction of hours, threats of retaliation and many other unlawful actions intended to discourage employees from organizing but workers aren't giving up the fight,” Fast Food Forward said, in the statement.
The National Restaurant Association, or NRA, a trade association of restaurant owners and operators, in a statement, said that the discussion about wages “should be based on facts.”
"Only five percent of restaurant employees earn the minimum wage and those that do are predominantly working part-time and half are teenagers," said Scott DeFife, the organization's executive vice president of policy and government affairs, Reuters reported.
However, employees refute the arguments and claim that only 12 percent of low-wage workers are teenagers. An analysis of government data by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, released earlier this month, supports the fast-food workers’ claims.
According to the report, 40 percent of fast-food workers in the U.S. are 25 or older; half of the workers are 23 or older; and more than one in four are supporting at least one child. And, more than 30 percent have had at least some college education.
The fast-food industry accounts for a third of the revenues from the $660 billion restaurant industry, which employs 13.1 million employees across the nation, according to figures cited on the NRA's website.