NYC fast-food workers strike for higher pay

Holly Bailey
National Correspondent
The Lookout

NEW YORK—At least 400 fast-food workers here walked off their jobs on Thursday as part of a citywide protest to demand better pay.

Employees from popular chain restaurants including McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s participated in what was a rolling protest throughout the day to call attention to the plight of low-paid fast-food workers.

The walkout was organized by Fast Food Forward, a coalition backed by labor, religious and community groups. It was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was shot and killed in Memphis where he had been supporting a strike by low-paid sanitation workers.

“They were actually demanding the same things workers were demanding today: living wages and the right to organize,” Jonathan Westin, the director of Fast Food Forward, told Yahoo News.

Employees are demanding to be paid at least $15 an hour—or roughly double the $7.25 minimum wage that most fast-food workers in the city are paid. At least 60 restaurants were affected, according to Fast Food Forward.

According to Westin, the protest was roughly double the size of a walkout the coalition organized in November in New York. That event was widely described as the largest job-action protest to ever hit the fast-food industry.

He called Thursday’s turnout a success, saying it was a sign of growing momentum behind efforts to improve the working conditions of fast-food restaurant employees who struggle to survive on their salaries. The group estimates that some full-time workers are forced to live on roughly $18,000 a year.

The coalition is planning to end its Thursday protests with a march to a McDonald’s on 125th Street in Harlem—a community that has many residents who work low-wage jobs. Several hundred people were expected to join the final protest.

Westin said the group was planning future walkouts later this year to put pressure on the restaurant industry to offer its workers better pay.

“What happened today sends a big message to a multibillion fast-food industry that this thing is not going away,” he said. “We’re going to continue fighting for living wages and the right to organize. ... People deserve more than living in poverty.”