The 150-city protest being held today by quick-service employees asking for a higher minimum wage has led to dozens of arrests according to numerous news sources. The workers are specifically asking for $15 an hour -- up from the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 -- as well as the right to form a union. Their rallying cries have been growing louder since the first organized strikes were held in November 2012 in New York City.
The strikes have since gone global.
Also today, striking employees announced they will launch a 12-country, five-continent tour to meet with other workers around the world to "share lessons of their campaign," the news release said.
According to a news release from an organization representing the employees, thousands of employees participated in today's strikes from more than 1,000 restaurants, including McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Wendy's. Dozens of employees in New York City were arrested early this morning. Workers in Detroit and Chicago were also arrested, according to sources.
As of early afternoon, 19 QSR workers were arrested in New York City, 42 in Detroit, 23 in Chicago, 11 in Little Rock, Ark., and 10 in Las Vegas. As the lunch daypart began, employees walked out of McDonald's restaurants in other markets, such as Miami, Rockford, Illinois, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, Flint, Michigan, Hartford, Connecticut, Richmond, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina.
Striking employees have been supported by organizations such as the NAACP, as well as local elected officials, some members of Congress and clergy members.
During a Labor Day speech in Milwaukee, President Obama acknowledged the Fight for $15 movement, saying: "All across the country right now there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity ... If I were looking for a job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union. If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union…I’d want a union looking out for me.”
Today's strike follows a series of victories for QSR workers. In July, the National Labor Relations Board determined that McDonald's is accountable for its franchisees' employees’ working conditions. Throughout the past two years of accelerating wage protests and allegations of wage theft practices, McDonald's has reiterated that it is not directly responsible for such grievances, claiming its franchisees act as independent owner-operators that set their own policies.
Restaurant organizations push back
International Franchise Association CEO Steve Caldeira, released a statement in advance of today's protests, claiming that the call for a higher minimum wage is organized by the Service Employees International Union and its affiliates, which have ulterior motives. He calls the campaign "an overt effort to undermine franchising."
"The protest’s focus on franchises is part of a special interest play by the SEIU. It would be wrong to allow the SEIU and its affiliates to hide behind an altruistic plea for higher wages when what they really want is a shortcut to refill their steadily dwindling membership ranks and coffers," he said. "The not-so-subtle subtext to the call for a higher minimum wage is the union’s effort to persuade federal, state and local governments to declare that franchised businesses are joint employers ignoring the fact that they are individually-owned, local small businesses ... When you boil this all down, it’s really about the unions being hypocritical and greedy by exploiting proposals meant to support fast food workers to enrich themselves.”
National Council of Chain Restaurants Executive Director Rob Green added that today's activities put both restaurant workers and their customers in danger of physical harm.
"There are millions of workers in the food retail industry who find personal satisfaction in their work and appreciate the opportunities provided by the restaurants that hire them," he said."The activities being coordinated, financed and facilitated by labor unions - desperate for new membership dues - accomplish absolutely nothing."