Workers at Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s have gone on strike in New York City in protest of their low wages and their trouble starting a union to organize and demand their rights. These strikes follow closely after the nationwide strikes at Walmart, which has notoriously prevented its workers from unionizing and increasing their wages.
Workers began striking Thursday, protesting outside a Burger King near Penn Station standing behind a metal barricade with union organizers, clergy and other fast food workers. Inside the restaurant there were two customers, a security guard and a few cashiers. Customers have mostly avoided the chaos, and protestors hope to change the structure of the fast food industry where workers typically drift between jobs without much room for growth.
The strikes may be due to changing demographics among fast food workers, where teenagers working part-time jobs have been replaced with laid off workers, parents and families looking to support themselves. Organizers from New York Communities for Change helped coordinate protests among fast food workers.
“Especially now after the recession, a lot of people who lost work are now taking these jobs. Our economy is becoming a service sector economy but most of these jobs are minimum wage. This is a huge problem”, said Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change.
The workers are specifically requesting the ability to form unions and to be paid at least $15 an hour. Fast food workers make approximately $8.90 an hour, which is the lowest of any occupation. These workers usually move to other jobs instead of demanding raises at their current ones, and the franchises that own each fast food establishment actively block attempts at unionization.
The event organizers have not been completely clear about their plans to unionize workers, but they intend to change standards across the whole industry rather than just at individual franchises. Despite the striking employees, franchise owners will most likely continue to pay workers on a store-by-store basis across New York.
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