Hundreds of fast-food workers in New York City protested their low wages at their jobs in the streets of the city in front of a local downtown Wendy's on Thursday.
"Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Minimum wage has got to go!" was the chant that was the rallying cry for workers who are struggling in their current positions.
"I'm asking for respect, I'm asking for $15, I'm asking for a union, I'm asking for job security," said Linda Archer who currently works at a New York City McDonald's. She is currently making $8 an hour, which is less than the $8.25 average statewide pay. Protestors are asking fast food restaurants to pay $15 an hour for their services. Minimum wage is $7.25 in New York but the state Legislature voted to raise it to $9 by 2016.
The median pay for the nearly 50,000 fast food workers in New York is $9 an hour which works out to $18,500. The Census Bureau poverty income threshold level is $23,000 for a family of four, which is $4,500 less than what most fast food workers make in New York. Living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, $18,500 is not enough for most of the workers to survive and raise their families. For jobs that include tips, workers can get as little as $4.65 an hour because they could receive tips from their works.
Thursday started with dozens of workers working off work at a McDonald's location near Times Square according to Jonathan Westin, executive director of protest sponsor New York Communities for Change. Westin also said that a Burger King on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn did not open on time because workers worked out on work.
"The economy is becoming an economy of low-wage, service-sector jobs that pay minimum wage," Westin said. "For many folks who've lost good jobs in the recession, these have become their jobs. People are coming to a tipping point."
McDonald's and Burger King restaurants were not the only places to be affected by the protests. Wendy's along with KFC and Pizza Hut's in the city as well.
The fast-food industry is a union-free industry. One of the demands of the protestors is "the right to organize free from retaliation from employers." The group Fast Food Forward launched in November and has joined other political campaigns involving the working poor including the minimum wage and paid sick leave. They were also on the frontlines of the battle for workers in New York City to receive sick leave at their jobs. The group also supported a group of guest McDonald's workers from overseas in Pennsylvania who were being shorted on pay and stayed in below par housing.
Stephen Warner, an employee at a McDonald's in New York knew the tough decision he had to make regarding whether he should protest or not knowing there could be some retaliation from his employers.
"It's hard," he said of the decision to protest McDonald's. "But it's even harder to just sit there and take it."
Here is some reaction on Twitter regarding the McDonald's Strike:
@kabumere: I can't take people who accpeted a job, JOB, at a McDonalds or Wendy's etc then go on strike demanding higher wages. $15/hr, are you kidding
@CoachHawley: Top story on CNN is 'New YorK KFC/McDonalds workers on strike' all while N. Korea is provoking war.