US Fast Food Worker Protests Grow Larger

Fast food workers and others - including airport employees and carers - are asking for higher wages
Fast food workers and others – including airport employees and carers – are asking for higher wages

US fast food worker protests expanded to 190 cities on Thursday as the movement to raise the minimum wage in the US to $15 (£9.57) an hour reached a two-year anniversary.

In cities from Boston to Chicago, fast food workers and union organizers marched outside of various McDonalds.

The movement has seen some success, with cities such as San Francisco and Seattle raising the minimum wage.

US President Barack Obama has said he supports their efforts.

Two-year anniversary

The so-called “Fight for 15” movement has organised eight protests and walk-outs in the past two years, but billed Thursday’s efforts as their biggest yet.

Fast food workers, airport employees and home-health aids, among others, have argued that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 is not enough to allow workers to live.

The campaign is backed by the Service Employees International Union, which has provided financial support and organisational help to the effort.

They have exerted pressure on McDonalds, Burger King and other fast food restaurants to raise wages, in addition to working with local politicians to get wage-raising measures on the ballot during election season.

McDonalds has said that the protesters do not necessarily represent the opinions of all of its employees, and that wage decisions are up to individual franchise owners.

“It’s important to know approximately 90% of our US restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees who set wages according to job level and local and federal laws,” it said in a statement.

‘A real struggle’

In New York City, hundreds of workers gathered at a McDonalds in downtown Manhattan, chanting slogans and walking in step with a marching band.

They briefly went into a franchise, before leading a march toward’s New York’s City Hall.

“I’m going to cry – we went from 200 workers in New York City to workers in countries around the world,” said one organiser who addressed the crowd.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the last two years.”

Shantel Walker has been with the movement from the beginning and has attended six protests.

She has been working at a Papa John’s pizzeria franchise on and off since 1999, yet she says she still gets paid only $8.50 per hour – not substantially more than when she first started.

“Right now it’s a real struggle to survive,” she says.

“If I get paid on Saturday, by Monday I’m broke.”

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SOURCE: BBC News – Kim Gittleson

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