Yesterday fast-food restaurant workers across the US staged a 24-hour strike in protest against low wages. Walkouts were reported in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, and also Detroit, Michigan; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Organisers hoped workers in as many as 100 cities would participate in what is the latest in a series of such actions. Unions want a $15-an-hour (£9.19) federal minimum wage. The current one, set in 2009, is $7.25 per hour.
President Barack Obama, who has backed a Senate measure to increase the minimum to $10.10, specifically mentioned fast-food workers “who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty”, in an economic policy speech on Wednesday.
His Democratic allies, who control the upper chamber of Congress, have said a vote on the matter could be held this month. But even if it passes the Senate, it is not clear if it would be approved by the Republican-led House of Representatives.
Nearly 100 protestors gathered around a Wendy’s restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, at midday, carrying signs saying “stick together for $15/hr”. Shaquena Davis told the BBC she worked at the fast-food restaurant, making $7.25. “I got kicked out of school because I couldn’t pay the bill,” she said. “I’m living in a one-bedroom apartment with five people.”
Kachelle Krump, 23, works at a Burger King in the area. She told the BBC she works 16 to 20 hours a week and would like more hours, but that management had been unhelpful. “I have a child who is seven years old – she’s in school, she needs things,” said Ms Krump. Of her employer, Burger King, she said: “It’s a billion dollar company. Share a little.”
In Detroit, about 50 demonstrators turned out for an early morning rally in front of a McDonald’s, including a handful of employees who walked off the job. However, the restaurant stayed open. Another 40 demonstrators rallied at a Burger King in Atlanta.
The American fast-food industry has come under increasing scrutiny because part-time jobs, including retail and food positions, have made up most of the job growth since the recession. It is not yet clear how many fast-food restaurants will be affected by Thursday’s industrial action.
The workers’ last nationwide strike, in August, was patchy, with some restaurants appearing to function normally while others were unable to do business.