Fast-food workers across the country have planned a protest for this Thursday, the largest the industry has ever seen. Employees of restaurant chains including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Pizza Hut are planning the walkout over low wages, poor healthcare options, and the right to unionize.
The protests are coordinated by local groups in various states, Food Forward and Fight for 15, union-backed groups calling for raising the minimum to $15 an hour for the 4 million fast-food workers in America. According to the New York Times, the fast-food employees will also be joined in the protests by thousands of home-care workers, hoping that their participation will help expand the campaign into a broader movement.
In July, Fight for 15 held its first convention, and members decided that acts of civil disobedience would be used to help get their message across.
Terrence Wise, a Burger King employee and member of the Fight for 15 national organizing committee, said in a statement regarding Thursday’s protests:
“Thirteen hundred workers unanimously adopted a resolution at our convention in July to do whatever it takes to win $15 an hour and union rights, including participation in non-violent, peaceful protests in the tradition of the civil rights movement. On Thursday, we are prepared to take arrests to show our commitment for the growing Fight for $15.”
The median pay for workers in the fast-food industry is currently just over $9 an hour, which comes to about $18,500 a year. The Census Bureau’s poverty threshold is $23,000 for a family of four. That’s a difference of about $4,500.
Demos, a public policy group, says that CEO compensation in the fast-food industry has quadrupled to $24 million since 2000, but the average fast-food employee’s pay has only increased 0.3 percent. Industry CEOs currently made over 1,000 times more than the average worker in 2013, the group says.
On Monday, President Obama spoke about the the current state of the economy, saying that America’s workers deserve better. “I’ve got a vision of an economy where opportunity is open to everybody who’s willing to work hard,” he said. “I want an economy where your hard work pays off with higher wages and higher incomes and fair pay for women and workplace flexibility for parents and decent retirement benefits. I’m not asking for the moon! I just want a good deal for American workers.”
He also added that if he were looking for a good job, he’d join a union. “If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union … I’d want a union looking out for me,” the president said.
Thursday’s protests will be the seventh since workers in New York walked out in November 2012 and the largest since the National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s could be named in lawsuits regarding issues such as unpaid wages and working conditions.