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100-city fast-food strike set for Thursday

Fast-food workers in about 100 cities will walk

Fast-food workers in about 100 cities will walk off the job on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, organizers say, which would mark the largest effort yet in a push for higher pay. These demonstrators were protesting this past summer. (July 29, 2013) Credit: Nancy Borowick

Fast-food workers in about 100 cities will walk off the job on Thursday, organizers say, which would mark the largest effort yet in a push for higher pay.

The actions are intended to build on a campaign that began about a year ago to call attention to the difficulties of living on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or about $15,000 a year for a full-time employee.

The protests are part of a movement by labor unions, Democrats and other worker advocacy groups to raise pay in low-wage sectors. Last month, President Barack Obama said he would back a Senate measure to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Protesters are calling for $15 an hour, although many see the figure as a rallying point rather than a near-term possibility.

It's not clear how large the turnout will be at any given location, or whether the walkouts will be enough to disrupt operations. Similar actions this summer had varying results, with some restaurants unable to serve customers and others seemingly unaffected.

The National Restaurant Association, an industry lobbying group, called the demonstrations a "campaign engineered by national labor groups," and said the vast majority of participants were union protesters rather than workers.

Kendall Fells, a New York City-based organizer for Fast Food Forward, said demonstrations are planned for 100 cities, in addition to the 100 cities where workers will strike.

Organizers face an uphill battle in reshaping an industry that competes aggressively on low prices. Fast-food workers are also seen as difficult to unionize, given the industry's high turnover rates.

Supporters of wage hikes have been successful at the state and local level. Last month, voters in New Jersey approved a hike in the minimum to $8.25 an hour, up from $7.25 an hour.

Earlier this year, New York raised its minimum wage, effective Dec. 31, to $8 from $7.25. The rate will rise to $9 by the end of 2015.

With Carrie Mason-Draffen

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