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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid