Congressional Dems, President call for higher wages as QSR strikes grow

Dec. 5, 2013

Quick-service employees in more than 100 cities across the country have walked off their jobs today, as part of a protest that began before sunrise at many restaurant locations on the East Coast. Workers are specifically asking for an increase — to $15 an hour — in the federal minimum wage. It is currently $7.25.

Their organized efforts began in New York City nearly a year ago and have since spread to numerous cities throughout the year. The Washington Post has published a map of cities where the protests are taking place today.

As the movement continues to spread, it also appears to be gaining more support, although not quite to the level of $15/hour. For example, earlier this week, President Obama voiced his support for a higher minimum wage of $10.10.

Also, 53 Congressional Democrats signed and sent a letter to companies such as McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Domino's and Yum! Brands, asking them to increase wages for their store-level employees.

"Too many hard-working families are being forced to depend on poverty-level wages," the letter said.

A small number of metro areas have responded to the growing call for higher wages, as well. Earlier this week, the Washington D.C. unanimously endorsed a minimum wage of $11.50 for the city, matching levels in nearby Maryland suburbs.

Additionally, voters in SeaTac, Wash., voted in support of a $15/hour wage in November, and, in September, California Governer Jerry Brown signed a new law increasing the state's minimum wage to $10 an hour.

Pushback from restaurant organization

As the strikes continue throughout today, the National Council of Chain Restaurants issued a statement from Executive Director Rob Green calling them orchestrated and based on fiction. He wrote:

"Today's protests against the food service industry, orchestrated by special interest groups on behalf of organized labor, are part of an ongoing effort to replace fact with fiction while ignoring simple truths. It is a well studied and accepted fact that beyond teenagers and some part-timers, the vast majority of restaurant workers make more than the starting wage. Workers at the thousands of quick-service restaurant locations across the country are committed to their jobs and realize that these positions provide a foundation to develop skills and knowledge that lead to greater opportunities for advancement, within the restaurant itself or with future employers.

"Chain restaurants are a collection of small businesses in local communities around the country, and they are facing stiff economic headwinds resulting from laws like the Affordable Care Act and anticompetitive rules and regulations that penalize business and entrepreneurs alike.

"Choreographed street theater directed by Big Labor cannot replace thoughtful enactment of sound economic policies which will actually spur capital investment and create jobs."

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