American workers in 50 cities have announced plans to walk off the job on Thursday in order to put pressure on McDonald’s Corp. and Wendy’s Co. to raise their wages to nearly double the current rate.
Last year protests by employees began in New York, however according to the Service Employees International Union it is now spreading to other cities including Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, San Diego and Chicago.
The fast food workers are currently not members of the union, but they are demanding the right to organize and are calling for wages of at least $15 an hour which is more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The majority of fast food workers earn significantly more than the minimum-wage, averaging $9 an hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The SEIU, which is helping organize the workers, is also attempting to target some of the food industry’s largest chains including Taco Bell, KFC, Subway and Burger King Worldwide Inc. in order to force a sector wide response to the issue.
“What the workers are trying to do is hold the corporations accountable,” said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU president.
While the goals may sound noble, the protesters are facing difficult odds ahead of them. Previous attempts to strike for higher wages in the fast food industry have not had much impact and suffered from low turnout. Another issue facing protesters is that under franchise agreements with the restaurant chains, the franchisees who own and operate most individual stores are the ones responsible for hiring and wages. However, as a condition of their franchise agreement they are required to pay a certain amount in royalty payments and rent to the restaurant chains.
Additionally, by raising wages the restaurants will eventually have to increase the price of their product order to make a profit. The price increase will cut into consumer demand for the product who will patronize other restaurants with cheaper prices.
Another issue that supporters of the workers failed to understand is that by paying the workers minimum wage or slightly higher, employers have a reason to give young and unskilled workers a chance however, if they were forced to pay the higher wage of $15 an hour employers are much more likely to choose to higher only workers with a proven track record and job experience. This will effectively price teenagers out of the job market.
“The story promoted by the individuals organizing these events does not provide an accurate picture of what it means to work at McDonald’s,” Ofelia Casillas, a spokeswoman for the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company, said in an e-mail.