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Fast-food workers walk off: LIVE UPDATES

Fast-food workers walk off: LIVE UPDATES
Fast-food employees are conducting a nationwide strike in the US on Thursday, December 5, demanding a $15 dollar minimum wage.

Orchestrated by the National Fast Food Workers Campaign, the organization is hoping workers in more than 100 cities across the United States will join the effort by walking out and protesting low wages in fast-food restaurants.

While fast-food employees earn a median wage of $8.90 per hour, a little more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, workers argue it’s simply not enough to live off of. Protesters are expected to walk out of various restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway, Wendy’s, and KFC.

02:14 AM GMT:

01:36 AM GMT:

01:00 AM GMT: The fast food strike has wrapped up for the night in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan with a beautiful lightshow display.

00:43 AM GMT: A McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb insisted that nationwide rallies should not be called a "strike" because restaurants remained opened to the public.

"Outside groups are traveling to McDonald's and other outlets to stage rallies," she said, as quoted by AFP. "Our restaurants remain open thanks to our dedicated employees serving our customers."

00:11 AM GMT: Scott DeFife from the National Restaurant Association, called the rally a "coordinated PR campaign.”

"The restaurant industry has been one of the few industries that continued to create jobs during the recession and economic recovery, offering opportunities to hundreds of thousands of new workers over the past couple of years," he said in an email. "Dramatic increases in a starting wage, such as those called for in these rallies, will challenge that job growth history, increase prices for restaurant meals, especially in the value segments, and lead to fewer jobs created."

11:39 PM GMT: In Cleveland Ohio, Service Employees International Union are fighting alongside minimum wage workers for fair pay.

"These are grown folks with bills to pay, who are bringing home $11,000 a year,"
Pamela Rosado outreach coordinator at Policy Matters Ohio told the local media. "A number of them are heads of households with families to support. This is just not right."

11:04 PM GMT: McDonald's spokesperson Lisa McComb released the following statement as quoted in 19ActionNews:

"McDonald's and our owner-operators are committed to providing our employees with opportunities to succeed. We offer employees advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits. And we invest in training and professional development that helps them learn practical and transferable business skills. We also respect the right to voice an opinion. To right-size the headlines, however, the events taking place are not strikes. Outside groups are traveling to McDonald's and other outlets to stage rallies. Our restaurants remain open today- and every day- thanks to our dedicated employees serving our customers."

10:53 PM GMT: The mayor-elect of New York City, Bill de Blasio, offered his support to the crowd gathered in the Big Apple.

"I stand fully behind the fast-food workers in our city and across the nation who are on strike today in their effort to organize for a liveable wage and fair benefits," said de Blasio, as quoted by FTP.

"We all know that while the fast-food industry rakes in billions every year, it refuses to pay its workers enough to provide for themselves or their families."

10:32 PM GMT: Hundreds have walked off their fast food jobs in Austin, Texas after the general strike began at noon.

Protestors say the average age of workers is 28 with the median of $8.83 per hour. According to an MIT study, the average full-time worker with a child needs $19.56 per hour to make it in the Austin area, local media reports.

Some workers have overrun the restaurants to make their message heard.

10:17 PM GMT: In Tampa, Florida people stand outside of McDonalds and KFC, holding Ronald McDonald figure mascot, demanding better wages.

10:14 PM GMT: In Vancouver Washington, the elderly took to the streets to show their support for the national Fast Food workers strike.

10:06 PM GMT: In Albuquerque, New Mexico, police had to get involved asking the protesters to leave restaurant premises.

9:53 PM GMT: Controversial filmmaker Michael Moore has endorsed the “biggest ever” fast food employees strike.

9:36 PM GMT: Fast food strike hits Milwaukee with dozens forming a line outside of McDonalds.

9:28 PM GMT: Fast-food Employees of Raleigh and Durham in North Carolina woke up before dusk and walked off the job as part of a 100-city strike aimed at securing better pay. Some have even taken their kids to join the rally.

Other kids enjoyed joining their parents in Pittsburgh protests as well.

9:12 PM GMT: Activists in support of Fast Food workers gathered at Foley Square in New York City, with the United Federation of teachers drawing crowds with an unusual display of support displayed on the pavement.

8:58 PM GMT: A few hundred fast food workers walked off the job in Chicago demanding higher wages of at least $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.

8:37 PM GMT: In Memphis which employees around 11,000 fast food workers at an average salary of under $8.50 an hour, underpaid workers burst into McDonalds demanding fair wages.

8:21 PM GMT: Progressive Caucus, the largest membership organization within the Democratic Caucus in the United States Congress joined the fast food strike in Washington DC.

8:07 PM GMT: Two activists dress up as Ronald McDonald and dance with protesters outside of the fast food restaurant in Oakland, California.

8:01 PM GMT Just before walkouts began today, 53 members of Congress wrote and sent out letters to chief executives at fast-food companies in support of employee desire to raise wages. One letter, addressed to McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, notes that taxpayers allocate $7 billion a year to fast-food workers enrolled in public assistance programs, which could threaten the country’s social safety net if it keeps rising.

“Paying fair wages and putting more spending money in the hands of consumers will strengthen our economy and out our nation on the path to greater prosperity for all,”
the letter reads.

7:59 PM GMT Fast food workers started to strike at 12:00 PDT in California’s capital Sacramento, with activists joining the crowds at the McDonalds located at 2331 Broadway.

The current minimum wage in California stands at $8 an hour, which will rise to $9 in July 2014. A further one dollar increase is planned for January 2016.

“The increase in the minimum wage is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t really solve the problem — you can have a full-time job and still need food stamps,”
Jim Zamora, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 1000 told Sacramento Business Journal.

7.55 PM GMT Supporters in Phoenix, Arizona also joined the strike today, with McDonald’s employee Nick Williams telling local KPHO News his wage is “not enough to take care of basic needs like gas, rent, medical bills.” As with activists in Richmond, Virginia, the organization responsible for orchestrating the rallies in the state, Living United for Change in Arizona, cited an MIT study that revealed an adult with one child needs nearly $20 an hour to purchase the basics in Phoenix.

7.45 PM GMT Wendy’s employees in Brooklyn, New York chant in support of higher wages. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these poverty wages have got to go.”

7.33 PM GMT This protester in Madison, Wisconsin claims capitalism benefits those who make money at the expense of others.

7.21 PM GMT In Minnesota, protesters marched out into snow and cold temperatures, while Walmart employees, engaged in their own efforts to earn higher wages, gathered to support fast-food workers.

7.09 PM GMT Twitter user and protester Maria Montano claims she was escorted out of a McDonald’s in Washington, Pennsylvania by police officers

7.03 PM GMT Scores of protesters in Austin, Texas, march down the street chanting, “Lift, lift, lift us up. $7.25 is not enough.”

7.00 PM GMT The National Council of Chain Restaurants has spoken out against the fast-food walkouts to the Los Angeles Times, claiming they are “choreographed street theater directed by Big Labor” that “cannot replace thoughtful enactment of sound economic policies which will actually spur capital investment and create jobs.”

6.55 PM GMT"Hold the burger, hold the fries -- make my wages supersized!"

6.45 PM GMT Fast-food employees in Richmond, Virginia, gathered in the rain with their supporters. According to NBC 12, a recent study found that an adult in Richmond with a child needs a wage of just over $20 per hour in order to afford basic necessities. Walkouts are expected to take place at Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, and others.

"I don't think a CEO should make millions while his own employees are only making $7 or $8 an hour," local Pastor Rodney Hunter of the Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, who would be addressing protesters today, told NBC 12. "The cost of living continues to rise and income levels stay the same, it just can't go on that way."

6:42 PM GMT: Boston fast food workers participate in nationwide minimum wage protests walking out from their jobs. More than one hundred protesters joined the rally at a Burger King on Thursday.

6.37 PM GMT Workers in Los Angeles walked out of a local McDonald’s this morning, while protesters marched inside. Video published by NBC Los Angeles showed one supporter, armed with a megaphone and flanked by others, proclaimed, ‘Workers, we have your back. We will stand with you. We will walk with you. We will struggle with you.”

"This is actually a tough job," said worker Roberto Tejada to NBC. "If I struggle with $8 an hour just for myself, imagine how people with children struggle."

6.20 PM GMT Workers block traffic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to bring attention to their cause.

6.07 PM GMT Dozens of people gathered around a Burger King in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where workers, clergy members, and other residents protested low wages and declared, “We’re not going away.” One Burger King employee reportedly said, “We are worth more respect,” while another described the difficulties of caring for a family with a fast-food wage, according to tweets by local resident going by the Twitter handle @_greenlove_.

5.55 PM GMT While protestors orchestrated walkouts around the United States, restaurant representatives came out against the strike, saying profit margins at fast food franchises are not large enough to support dramatic wage increases. They also pointed towards employee opportunity for advancement and noted that restaurants have helped boost the economy during the recession.

"The restaurant industry has been one of the few industries that continued to create jobs during the recession and economic recovery, offering opportunities to hundreds of thousands of new workers over the past couple of years," said the National Restaurant Association's vice president for government affairs, Scott DeFife, to the Huffington Post.

5.45 PM GMT Protesters took over a McDonald’s near Denver, Colorado, as an employee speaks out against low wages.

5.40 PM GMT"All I wanna say is that they don't really care about us!"

Fast-food workers sing in protest of their working conditions

5.32 PM GMT McDonald’s employees in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, walked out of their job for the first time today, joining dozens of protestors outside the restaurants in their quest for higher wages and the right to organize without retaliation. A rally is also currently underway in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

"Do I want to keep my phone on or the lights? Do I want to get a late fee on my college tuition or buy books? The choices go on," said 21-year-old Milwaukee Area Technical College student Devonte Yates, according to the Journal-Sentinel.

5.21 PM GMT Fast-food workers rap for their rights

5.16 PM GMT Workers in multiple cities across North Carolina – Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, and Charlotte – walked out of restaurants this morning to protest low wages, inspired by fast-food strikes in New York and Chicago.

"Anything would be better than nothing,” said a Raleigh Burger King cashier named Marcel McGirk to WRAL News. “I agree $15 is pretty steep, but if we can push for it and get it, why not? We'll take it a step at a time.” According to WRAL, McGirk has worked in fast food for almost 11 years but still earns minimum wage.

5.10 PM GMT Fast-food workers in St. Louis, Missouri have joined the strike as well. Numerous people have gathered around local Domino’s Pizza, McDonald’s, and Rally’s restaurants to show their support for employees. CBS St. Louis reported that state lawmakers held a public hearing last month to address the fast-food industry’s low ages, and several have voiced support for raising wages since.

5.06 PM GMT Dozens of protesters have rallied in Washington, DC, where some fast-food employees have addressed the crowd. According to writer Alexis Goldstein, at least one speaker has called on President Barack Obama to take action, saying, "Obama, do the moral imperative & sign the exec order...not just a fiscal objective, it's a human one."

Another protester, Shemethia Butler, told Goldstein, "I'm only making 8.25 an hour and I'm 33 years old. There's something wrong with that."

4.39 PM GMT

4.30 PM GMT Fast food workers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania joined the strike this morning, according to local WTAE, when about 75 people rallied around a local Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds around 6 a.m. Another protest is scheduled for noon.

"As fast-food workers across the nation prepare a new wave of strikes to raise their wages, elected officials, activists, community members and fast-food workers in Pittsburgh will also strike and form picket lines, in downtown and on the Northside, against poverty wages and in support of the workers’ call for a $15 per hour for fast-food jobs and the right to form a union without retaliation," stated the community organizers at One Pittsburgh in a news release.

4.28 PM GMT

4.14 PM GMT In Detroit, Michigan, dozens of protestors assembled at a local McDonald’s, where striking employees said their goal was to walk out and “shut the restaurant down.” As CBS Detroit reported, the fast-food joint ended up staying open, but supporters shouted their desire to raise the minimum wage and chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, $7.40 has got to go.”

“People with kids know it’s not enough and people with responsibilities that have bills to pay, they know it’s not enough,” an unidentified McDonald’s employee told WWJ. “But it’s enough for me because it’s just me. So, I’m still walking out with them.”

4.09 PM GMT

4.00 PM GMT So far, protests have been confirmed in cities such as New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, while others continue to join what’s being billed as the largest fast food protest in U.S. history.