QSR workers strike in NYC, demand higher wages

 
Nov. 29, 2012

New Yorkers will see workers on strike at some of the largest quick-service restaurant chains today, as hundreds of workers at dozens of McDonalds, Taco Bells, KFCs and Burger Kings across the city plan the first ever "fast food walk-out" to call for higher wages and the right to form a union without interference.

The workers' campaign is called "Fast Food Forward." According to a press release, the goal is to "put money back in the pockets of the 50,000 men and women who work hard in the city's fast food industry — but still can't afford basic necessities like food, clothing and rent — to help get New York's economy moving again."

The workers are specifically fighting for $15 an hour and the right to form a union.

The protests began at 6:30 a.m. this morning and are expected to continue throughout the day. They kicked off at the McDonald's unit at 280 Madison Ave.

According to the release, this is the biggest effort to unionize QSR workers in the history of the U.S. The effort has engaged 40 full-time organizers in recent months to enlist workers at McDonald's, Wendy's, Domino's Taco Bell and other chains across the city.

Ruth Milkman, a sociology professor at the City University of New York, told the New York Times there has been little effort to unionize QSR workers in the past because of the daunting challenge it presents. With a high turnover rate in the industry, organization is also challenging.

McDonald's issued the following statement to the NY Times about the protests: "McDonald's values our employees and has consistently remained committed to them, so in turn they can provide quality service to our customers."

It added that the company had an "an open dialogue with our employees," encouraging them to express any concerns "so we can continue to be an even better employer." McDonald's said that most of its restaurants were owned and operated by franchisees "who offer pay and benefits competitive within the" industry.

Tim McIntyre, a Domino's Pizza spokesman, told the NY Times the few efforts to unionize its stores and drivers in the past had fallen short.

"It's a fairly high-turnover position, so there's never been a successful union effort," he said. "People who are doing this part time, seasonally or as they work their way through college don't find much interest in membership."

According to the State Labor Department, median pay for QSR workers in NYC is around $9 an hour — or about $18,500 a year for a full-time worker.

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