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Fast Food Employees Strike for Fair Wages, Workers’ Rights & Benefits

Workers strike outside Starbucks on 4th Ave in Seattle
Workers strike outside Starbucks on 4th Ave in Seattle

In Seattle and 60 other cities today, fast-food workers are striking at McDonald’s, Burger Kings and other establishments in their latest effort to raise wages in the service sector. Early this morning coffee shop workers joined the walkout, protesting in front of a Starbucks in the 1100 block of Fourth Avenue, a Specialty’s Coffee on Third Ave, and Top Pot Coffee one block away.  Fast-food workers will also assemble in Seattle’s Westlake Park to protest a Subway and Jimmy John’s. Yet another protest is currently underway outside a Wendy’s in Ballard.

These demonstrations are part of a year-long campaign which quickly spread across the country and have disrupted or shut down restaurants in New York, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Today’s protests by fast-food workers will also be supported by retail staff from stores like Macy’s, Sears and Dollar Tree.  Fast-food workers are pushing to organize unions in the virtually union-free sector without employer retaliation and bargain for higher wages.

Employment Laws

Workers nationwide are demanding pay increases of $15 per hour, far above the $7.25 which is the current federal minimum wage. Workers comp attorneys also point out that most of these workers fail to get the benefits full time workers enjoy in other sectors, despite the fact that workplace injuries are legion.

Martin Rafanan has helped organize these walk-outs in St. Louis, and explained that employees of McDonald’s and Wendy’s in his city simply can’t survive on that pay.

“If you’re paying $7.35 an hour and employing someone for 20, 25 hours a week, which is the average here, they’re bringing home about $10,000 a year. You can’t survive on that.” Rafanan said. Missouri’s minimum

According to organizers, support and participation have been building over the course of the summer as the movement receives financial and logistical support from the Service Employees International Union, community activists, labor employment lawyers, progressive politicians and even religious organizations.

Last fall, over 200 workers walked off the job in New York City fast-food restaurants. Groups across the country followed their lead in the ensuing months. Yet the restaurant chains have not modified their wage policies in response to these strikes.

The median wage for (non-management) fast-food workers is $8.90 per hour, according to an analysis of government data by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), an advocacy group for lower-wage workers.

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Emery Reddy