Nearly 500 arrested as fast-food workers go on strike across the US (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
Nearly 500 protesters were arrested in three dozen US cities on Thursday as fast-food workers and supporters staged sit-ins and acts of civil disobedience nationwide to call attention to their low wages and lack of union representation.
Organizers of the strike said that, all told, actions at fast-food restaurants occurred at about 150 cities nationwide, from Manhattan’s Times Square to Little Rock, Arkansas. Thursday’s coordinated demonstrations were the seventh - and largest yet - in a series of one-day strikes by fast-food workers since Nov. 2012.
Protesting workers from the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC are calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
In Times Square, protesters held signs saying, “Low Pay Is Not O.K.,” “On Strike to Lift My Family Up,” and “Whatever It Takes: $15 and Union Rights,” according to the New York Times.
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“We’re definitely on the upward move because we feel justice is on our side … we can’t wait,” said Douglas Hunter, a McDonald’s worker in Chicago who added that it is difficult supporting his family on his hourly wage.
“We think this is ridiculous in a country as rich as America,” Hunter told The Guardian.
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Striking fast-food workers were joined by many supporters, including home-care aides organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a major union representing hundreds of thousands of health workers and others that has spent $10 million to bolster the fast-food movement.
“With the integration of home care workers into this effort, this is starting to become a larger low-wage workers’ movement,” said Kendall Fells, organizing director for Fast Food Forward, which has coordinated the series of demonstrations.
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Fast-food restaurants and their defenders says the strikes have had little effect on the bottom line. Nevertheless, major fast-food chains and supporters took the opportunity Thursday to rip the movement by levying criticism at unions helping fast-food workers demonstrate.
“Encouraging activities that put both restaurant workers and their customers in danger of physical harm is not only irresponsible, it’s disturbing,” Rob Green, executive director of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, said in a statement. “Unions are calling it ‘civil disobedience’ when in reality, this choreographed activity is trespassing and it’s illegal.”
Fast-food behemoth McDonald’s alluded to union meddling in its disparagement of Thursday’s actions.
“These are not ‘strikes’ but are staged demonstrations in which people are being transported to fast-food restaurants,” the multinational company said.
Operators of McDonald’s franchises in the United States “support paying our valued employees fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace,” the company added.
“We believe that any minimum-wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners of small and medium-sized businesses — like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants — is manageable.”
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Some say the movement has helped push minimum wage increases on the local level. In May, Seattle raised its minimum wage standard to $15 an hour, while New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are considering raising their baseline pay to $13 an hour, according to The Guardian.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not changed since 2009. This wage, which comes out to $15,080 per year, is below the federal poverty line for families of two or more.
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