December 6, 2013

Wendy's employees in New York City demand fair wages so they won't have to rely on food stamps anymore. One of the many Fast Food Worker Strikes that are spreading across the nation.

On Thursday, employees of fast food chains demonstrated across the country for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. The protests were estimated to hit 100 cities in an ongoing movement to raise salaries for low-income, hourly earners. "As prices for food, clothing and gas is going up, we work so hard for just a little bit of money," a McDonald's worker said. "The least they could do is pay us something we can be proud of." Efforts were met with criticism by the National Council of Chain Restaurants, which argues that chain restaurants are "a collection of small businesses in local communities" and they face "stiff economic head winds resulting from laws like the Affordable Care Act and anti-competitive rules."

Critics say that $15-an-hour is too much money for unskilled workers. The critics should think again.

Voters in Seattle approved a $15-an-hour minimum in a November referendum. Just this week, the City Council of Washington, D.C., unanimously voted for an $11.50 minimum .

NYC Fast food workers performing before a rally in Foley Square.

In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums while marching into a McDonald's at around 6:30 a.m.; one startled customer grabbed his food and fled as they flooded the restaurant, while another didn't look up from eating and reading amid their chants of "We can't survive on $7.25!"

Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, the group at the helm of the Fast Food Forward campaign, said workers who missed a shift in order to be at one of the protests would be compensated. The money comes out of a "strike fund" supported by labor unions, foundations and grassroots organizations.

Protestors in Chicago were striking with the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

"No one should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty," Quinn said. "Increasing the minimum wage will ensure that workers get a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, while fighting poverty and bolstering our economy."

In Detroit, about 50 demonstrators turned out for a pre-dawn rally in front of a McDonald's. A few employees said they weren't working, but a manager and other employees kept the restaurant open.

Julius Waters, a 29-year-old McDonald's maintenance worker who was among the protesters, said it's hard making ends meet on his wage of $7.40 an hour.

"I need a better wage for myself, because, right now, I'm relying on aid, and $7.40 is not able to help me maintain taking care of my son. I'm a single parent," Waters said.

The nationwide walkouts come as momentum appears to be gathering for action on increasing the federal minimum wage. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama gave a landmark speech on income equality, which he said was "the defining challenge of our time", while in November thousands of Walmart workers walked off the job in the latest of a series of protests against low pay and poor conditions.

Obama called for the federal rate to be increased in his speech on Wednesday, specifically mentioning fast food and retail workers in a demonstration of the impact demonstrations are beginning to have.

"I’m going to keep pushing until we get a higher minimum wage for hardworking Americans across the entire country. It will be good for our economy. It will be good for our families," Obama said.

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