News / USA

New York Fast-Food Workers Turn Up Heat On Pay Demands

A coalition of groups rally in front of a McDonald's on East 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in Harlem during a protest by fast food workers and supporters for higher wages in New York, Apr. 4, 2013.
A coalition of groups rally in front of a McDonald's on East 125th Street and Lexington Avenue in Harlem during a protest by fast food workers and supporters for higher wages in New York, Apr. 4, 2013.
Reuters
Hundreds of fast-food restaurant workers in New York City turned out for protests on Thursday in what organizers said would be their largest rally yet for better pay.

Employees from familiar chains such as McDonald's Corp , Burger King and Yum Inc's KFC are seeking to roughly double their hourly wage to $15. They also say they want the right to form a union without interference.

Winning such concessions will be an uphill battle. Low-wage, low-skill workers lack political clout and face significantly higher unemployment than college graduates.

"It's a long fight. We have to stick together if we're going to have a chance," said Joseph Barrera, 22, who has worked at a Brooklyn KFC restaurant for the past 10 months.

Organizers estimated that there are 50,000 fast-food workers in New York City who earn $10,000 to $18,000 per year

Events kicked off at a McDonald's in midtown Manhattan, where roughly 100 people - including supporters bused in from Washington, DC - rallied. Roughly the same number of protesters clogged the entrance of a Wendy's restaurant near Penn Station at noon.

As many as 400 workers from more than five dozen restaurants around New York City have committed to turn out for protests planned at various locations throughout the day, said Jonathan Westin, director of Fast Food Forward, which organized Thursday's actions and is backed by labor, community and religious groups.

That turnout would be twice as large as in November, when the city's fast-food workers also walked off the job, Westin said.

"It's going to be difficult for these businesses to operate this time," said Westin.

That claim was in dispute, though. Protesters said their walk-out prevented a Burger King restaurant in Brooklyn from opening, but the company said it was only delayed 15 minutes.

Flipping and Frying

The nearly $200 billion U.S. fast-food industry long has been known as an employer of teenagers and students.

But the 18-month "Great Recession" that began in December 2007 forced more adults to seek part-time, largely minimum wage work flipping burgers and manning fryers.

Burger King and McDonald's said in statements to Reuters that most restaurants in their chains are independently owned and operated, and offer compensation consistent with industry standards.

U.S. President Barack Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage in his State of the Union address as a way to help lift some workers out of poverty. Critics, including the restaurant industry, say such a move would kill jobs by burdening small businesses with higher costs.

The state of New York recently passed a budget that includes plans to raise the state minimum wage to $9 an hour by the end of 2015.

But even with that hike, New York's minimum wage would remain below the roughly $11 hourly pay needed to lift a family of four above the poverty line.

"Anywhere where the cost of living is very, very high, $9 is not enough. Everyone should be able to make a living wage," said Barrera, who is paid the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

You May Like

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs