Quick-service employees from all over the country began walking off their jobs as early as 6 a.m. today, as part of what is expected to be the largest strike in the history of the restaurant industry.
The workers are calling for higher minimum wages of $15 an hour. Nationally, the median wage for cooks, cashiers and crew at QSRs is about $8.94 an hour, according to a news release. (See also: Restaurant industry organizations respond to today's strikes).
The strikes follow walkouts by QSR workers in seven cities earlier this summer and a part of a movement that began in New York City in November 2012. The Fast Food Forward and Low Pay Is Not OK organizations, two groups that have helped facilitate the walkouts, have been chronicling today's efforts on their Facebook pages.
For example, more than 50 people organized at 6 a.m. today to support Dunkin' Donuts employees who were striking in Hartford, Conn. Also clergy, community members and workers held a sit-in at 5th Ave McDonald's in NYC at 6:30 a.m. The strikes have continued to spread throughout the country as the day progresses. (A list of participating cities is below).
"Today, our call for $15 an hour and a union was heard across the country," said Devonte Yates, a Milwaukee-based McDonald's employee. "If the fast-food industry doesn't want our movement to spread any further, it should pay us enough so that we can support ourselves and our families."
Pastor W.J. Rideout III, from All God's People Church and the Inter-Faith Coalition of Pastors in Detroit, said the only way to get the U.S. economy back on track is to "put more money in the hands of the consumers."
"These striking workers are the best stimulus our economy could have," he added.
To complement the strikes, the Low Pay Is Not OK organization has drafted a petition to send to restaurant companies — specifically McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Domino's and Papa John's. It reads, in part:
"We have a huge economic problem in this country. It's you. You, and the rest of the fast food industry.
Together, your restaurants employ millions of people. Millions of people, mostly adults, who can't afford rent if they want to eat. Who can't afford health care if they want to pay their bus fare. Millions of people, and more than 25 percent of them are parents who can't afford school supplies if they have to buy school shoes.
Last year your combined profits were $7.35 billion. Yet you still paid most of your workers less than $11,200 a year — poverty wages. It's shameful ...
It's longer a matter of WHETHER you will raise wages; it's a matter of WHEN. Your companies can do this right now — you have the power to raise wages for your workers today."
Thus far, the pre-Labor Day protests have hit Alameda, Calif., Atlanta, Aurora, Colo.; Austin, Texas; Ballwin, Mo.; Belleville, Ill.; Berkeley, Calif.; Bloomington, Ill.; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Columbia, Mo.; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Durham, N.C.; East St. Louis, Ill.; Flint, Mich.; Fremont, Calif.; Greensboro, S.C.; Gretna, La.; Hartford, Conn.; Hayward, Calif.; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Lansing, Mich.; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Madison, Wis.; Manchester, Conn.,; Memphis, Tenn.; Milwaukee; Missoula, Mont.; Newark, Calif.; New Orleans; New York; Northglenn, Conn.; North Las Vegas, Nev.; Oakland, Calif.; Richmond, Calif.; Peoria, Ill.; Phoenix; Pontiac, Mich.; Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond, Calif.; San Diego; San Leandro, Calif.; San Lorenzo, Calif..; Seattle; Springfield, Ill.; St. Louis; Tacoma, Wash.; Tampa, Fla.; Topeka, Kan.; Wausau, Wis.; West Haven, Conn.; and Wilmington, Del.
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Photo provided by Fast Food Forward's Facebook page.
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.