If you’re thinking about heading to the nearest McD’s for lunch tomorrow, you might want to think again. Fast-food workers, in their continuing efforts to see a rise in their wages, are walking off the job in 100 cities. As they have before, workers and their supporters are seeking a $15-per-hour pay raise. According to the AP, previous walkouts during the summer had varying amounts of participation, with some restaurants unable to serve customers and others going on with business as usual.
The National Restaurant Association blames labor unions for the unrest. Though progress has been slow (protests began last year), there are changes afoot, with some companies, states, and cities enacting pay raises in the hopes of moving these workers closer to a living wage. The federal minimum wage right now is $7.25, which adds up to $15,000 per year. Even while working, many fast-food workers must seek public assistance and live below the poverty line. Many of these positions are held by adults, much different from the more common teenage fast-food workers of the past.
“SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said she thinks the protests have helped encourage more states and localities to raise their minimum wage this year. She expects the number of cities and participants in the protests to grow next year as the union tries to keep pressure on fast food companies,” reports the AP. A coordinator with the SEIU says the group would also like to see fast-food workers unionize so they can engage in collective bargaining. There are 3.9 million of these workers in the US today.
However, BusinessWeek points out, previous effort to form labor groups among these workers has failed, which makes the publicity surrounding these sorts of protests all the more important for drumming up widespread support. Many fast-food restaurants are franchises with wages set at the particular restaurants, which throws a monkey wrench in the works. “To start a union, organizers must get at least 30 percent of a proposed ‘bargaining unit’ to sign a petition asking for an NLRB-supervised union election, and the board then investigates whether a union would qualify and holds an election,” the magazine says.
MoveOn has an online petition in support of the workers, and plans to protest in five cities today — Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — to help with the effort. Do you stand with the fast-food workers?