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Arrests Start As Fast-food Workers Protest to Boost Minimum Wage

Fast-food workers blocked a street in front of a Manhattan McDonald's restaurant Thursday morning, September 4, 2014. Some of the protesters were arrested by NYPD. (CNN)

Fast-food workers blocked a street in front of a Manhattan McDonald’s restaurant Thursday morning, September 4, 2014. Some of the protesters were arrested by NYPD. (CNN)

NEW YORK — Fast-food workers have made good on a promise of civil disobedience in protests aimed at boosting pay to $15 an hour and joining a union without retaliation.

There have been up to 30 arrests so far in Detroit and 19 in New York., according to police in both cities. Protesters were charged with disorderly conduct for blocking traffic.

“We will be ready for anything,” said Public Information Officer Adam Madera of the Detroit Police Department, when asked if he expected more arrests throughout the day.

Organizers say that fast-food workers at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC, which is owned by Yum! Brands, are walking off the job in dozens of cities.

The actions are the latest in a two-year effort by fast-food workers to get employers to pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour and allow them to form unions.

Currently, the median pay for fast-food workers is just over $9 an hour, or about $18,500 a year. That’s roughly $4,500 lower than the Census Bureau’s poverty threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four.

Thursday’s protests come more than a month after the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel ruled that McDonald’s is a joint employer that exerts substantial power over working conditions at its franchisees. The ruling, if upheld, means McDonald’s could be held liable for labor violations at its more than 12,000 franchisee-owned restaurants.

McDonald’s has contended that franchisees operate as independent businesses and that, therefore, it’s not liable.

In March, McDonald’s workers filed class-action lawsuits in New York, California and Michigan over wage theft violations. The suits allege that McDonald’s has forced employees to work off the clock, not paid them overtime and struck hours off their time cards.

Union organizers say the movement has elevated the debate about inequality in the United States and helped raise the minimum wage in some states, including Connecticut and New Jersey.

17 comments

  • BrutallyHonest

    Good for them! They definately need to be paid more. NO ONE can survive on minimum wage, much less survive on 23K per year and support a family. Everything else has gone up in costs since the last minimum wage increase, its time to start paying workers more for the work they do to make the top execs of a company millions of dollars.

    • Kevin

      Are you crazy? $15 an hour to stand there and take orders or flip burgers? I hope they get replaced by machines… Working in fast food service shouldn’t be a permanent job.

      • Kevin

        Not my concern to create better jobs. Maybe if they spent their time time looking for a better job rather than protesting they would have a better high paying job. Not that hard to do really. If I can go through school and get a job so can they.

    • harrisbock

      Truck drivers will be replaced by driver-less trucks once all the kinks are worked out. Dock workers will load/unload the truck and send it on its way. Truck stops will adjust and provide full service for the driver-less trucks for fueling up and such.

  • Sue

    Absolutely ridiculous!! I have a college education and 25 years of experience. I am salaried. Based on the hours I work, I make about $20/hour. Now you are telling me some high school dropout that can’t make change for a buck is worth almost as much as I am? If you cannot live on your wages, get a second job, or an education. They are saying that $9 is below the poverty level FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR. How many people expect to raise their family of four on what they make working at McDonalds? If you cannot survive on your salary, perhaps your spouse should also work. I cannot believe this is even being talked about. If your only skill in life is pushing the button with the little tiny picture of a cheeseburger on it, you shouldn’t make $15 an hour. Now, if your employer is forcing you to work off the clock or not paying you for hours worked, that is an entirely different issue and certainly needs to be addressed….with that employer, not on a national level.

    • harrisbock

      If you haven’t noticed, a college degree is not what it used to be. Many young and recent graduates are finding they can’t find job that fall under their degree. There are many people with degrees working in low paying jobs because that is all they could get, and they have student loads to pay off on top of that. Maybe 20-40 years ago a college degree was a golden ticket for success…not any more. A lot of high school students could not find a summer job because there was nothing.The people getting the few low paying job(s) are holding onto them for dear life.

  • Troy V

    Fast Food jobs are ENTRY LEVEL positions and their current wages reflect that. These never have been (nor ever will be) FULL-TIME Jobs to raise a family on.

    If they really want McDonald’s, BK, etc. to raise wages it’s simple really. Supply and Demand. Right now, they have millions willing to work there for what they currenty pay. If they have a demand for workers and no one to fill those positions, they will raise the pay scale to try to fill them. (That’s how every other business in America works). Do you think factory jobs that pay $15 per hour + benefits would pay $15 an hour + benefits if they could get people to come work for half that? No, they wouldn’t. And those jobs are the jobs that these “workers” should be trying to get.

    Having said that, the other problem lies in that people are lazy. They will work at McDonalds for $8 an hour from 5am-noon but won’t work at a factory for double that amount becuase the work schedule is 5am-3pm or Midnight-8am or 4pm-midnight. You shouldn’t punish a business because the employees aren’t taking jobs that pay more that are available (there are TONS of unfilled positions across this country, but they are on shifts people don’t want to work).

    • GUEST

      The issue isn’t laziness it’s the fact that in a lot of places those higher paying better jobs just aren’t there not enough jobs however yes there are some that it is flat out laziness however the minimum wage hasn’t raised in years while all the while cost of living has risen more and more quickly ever since.

  • harrisbock

    Has anyone noticed the dismal job market due to a tanked economy and after the government started playing with health insurance? Workers who were full time with benefits are now part-time with none. More and more companies are no longer having “full-time” workers to avoid government interference. My 20yr son who just graduated college with a culinary degree couldn’t even find a job flipping burgers. All jobs are taken and was told having a degree meant he would not stay with the job long. I think people want to raise the minimum wage because a lot of companies are going to start reducing employees, wages, and benefits to survive, and if you won’t work for less, there is a line of people behind you who will…and they will even help you clean out your desk.

  • Trevor

    College degree don’t mean crap anymore. I have a degree in Department and Natural resources. I haven’t been able to find work in over 4 years. minimum wage needs to go up to at least 10.00. Everything else is going up.

  • zn0rseman

    NEWS FLASH: Those are jobs that are meant for high school kids looking for some extra spending money, not for people to depend on for income to raise a family.

    • harrisbock

      NEWS FLASH: Those holding onto those low paying jobs meant for high schools kids looking for money are not high school kids. And they are working that job to attempt to raise a family.

    • GUEST

      It’s sad to see such a narrow minded response you do realize that these so called high school students can’t even touch a fryer or a cooking station of any sort right? no ofc not because your far detached from the situation and yet think you have a valid input on it. an adult must run most of the machines in them by law and the minimum wage hasn’t been raised in years as I said above and yet cost of living continues to raise at a quicker pace every year. know your facts before responding next time please I cringe every time I see a post like this that just proves nothing but ignorance to the facts.

  • Mike Robinette

    I guess they don’t realize if minimum wage is raised the only people it helps is the government. Cuss soon after everything will go up then they will hitch cuss they lost their job and can’t pay for rent, food gas or a beer. But the government got there fast cash for it.

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