US fast food workers kick-off multi-city protests for higher pay

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Hundreds of low-wage workers at fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s yesterday protested in the streets of New York, kick-starting a week of demonstrations in several major cities demanding the right to unionise and pressing to double the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Protesters, many who earn less than the $11 per hour threshold many economists consider the cutoff for poverty-level wages, said they had nothing to lose by speaking out against their employers.

“Remaining silent is not an option because it’s nearly impossible to survive on $7.25 an hour,” said Kareem Starks, a McDonald’s worker in Brooklyn, referring to the federal minimum wage. Organisers said as many as 500 workers turned out for the New York rallies.

But opponents of the campaign, in their highest profile response to the workers yet, put out a full-page ad in USA Today that said catering to those demands would kill jobs.

The protesting workers, who are getting support from unions, and community and religious groups, are also planning demonstrations in Chicago, Kansas City, St Louis,

Detroit, Milwaukee and Flint, Michigan, this week.

Millions of working families and individuals in the United States struggle to live on pay that is at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which when adjusted for inflation, is worth 22 per cent less than in 1968 ($9.27) and 7 per cent less than in 2009 ($7.78), according to figures provided by the progressive Washington, DC-based Economic Policy Institute.

 

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