Fast Food Workers Strike Largest Yet


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Fast food workers across 60 US cities staged their planned walkout Thursday and while the day amassed the largest strike yet, actual turnout is yet to be determined. Protest goals involved the right to unionize without employer interference and $15/hr pay (the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25/hr). Organizers set the common date about a week ago.

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Though worker turnout was large, it varied. Some restaurants faced shortages in employees that affected business, though temporarily, and customers experienced longer wait times. Customers generally understood the reasons for the strikes, if they'd heard about them at all, but not all were necessarily supportive of the $15/hr goal. And customers did not appear to be deterred from their burgers and fries.

Higher prices for customers and fewer openings for job seekers are among the arguments the restaurant industry makes against raising wages. The chains offer examples of employees who have climbed the ladder to successful (higher paying) jobs and cite the training opportunities that are available.

Some elected and government officials came out in support of the protesters. In a statement to the Associated Press, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez called out the strikes as a sign that the minimum wage is too low: "For all too many people working minimum wage jobs, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity are feeling further and further apart." Other politicians, such as New York City mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, were seen walking side-by-side with the protesters (and potential voters).

Several community and union organizations are pulling the strings behind the movement, which will undoubtedly continue beyond the Labor Day weekend. The Service Employees International Union, which claims "the cutting edge of progressive activism," trains local organizers for such events. Getting most of the credit is the organization Low Pay Is Not Ok, which sponsors a petition, an open letter to fast food chains, a checklist for the strike for $15 and other resources on their web and social media sites. They also support offspring organizations and events such as Fight for 15. Regionally-focused groups such as Fast Food Forward in New York round out the backers. Protests started in New York last November.

Social media is exploding in support of the #829strike and organizers used it to rally the troops. No mention yet of next steps for the movement.

[Video and Images via KTTV Los Angeles, Facebook.]