NEW YORK — Hundreds of fast food workers and supporters protested outside New York City restaurants Thursday to demand higher wages for their low-paying jobs, including about 60 at a midtown Wendy's who chanted: "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Minimum wage has got to go!"
Linda Archer said she has worked at a nearby McDonald's for three years and makes $8 an hour. The protesters want fast food restaurants to pay $15 per hour, almost double the current statewide hourly average of $8.25. New York City has among the world's most expensive rents.
"I'm asking for respect, I'm asking for $15, I'm asking for a union, I'm asking for job security," she said.
McDonald's said in a statement that it values and respects all the employees who work at its restaurants.
The state Legislature last month voted to raise New York's hourly minimum wage of $7.25 to $9 by 2016.
But Scott DeFife, an executive vice president for the National Restaurant Association, said Thursday, "Current city and state proposals aimed at increasing the minimum wage and mandating paid leave would have a cumulative effect of significantly increasing the cost of doing business in New York and restrict the ability of the industry to create jobs."
DeFife released a statement saying, "The restaurant industry provides opportunities for millions of Americans, women and men from all backgrounds, to move up the ladder and succeed."
The day of picket lines organized by a coalition of unions and community groups followed a similar job action last November. Organizers said they expected hundreds of workers to demonstrate Thursday at dozens of fast food establishments, including McDonald's, Domino's, Wendy's and Pizza Hut.
Fast food workers deserve union representation, said Richard Trumka, national president of the AFL-CIO, who stopped by the Wendy's protest.
"They're being mistreated, they're being underpaid, they're going to stand together until they get fair treatment and we're going to stand with them," Trumka said.
Shahnaz Perveen ate her lunch inside Wendy's while protesters marched outside but said she supported the workers' demands. "They work really hard," she said.
Thursday's action also commemorated the assassination 45 years ago of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn., where he was supporting a strike by sanitation workers.
Several pickets wore signs that said "I am a man" or "I am a woman," echoing placards carried in Memphis in 1968.
Also on HuffPost:
McDonald's Grew During The Recession
McDonald's had <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2009/08/who_won_the_recession.html" target="_hplink">higher sales growth in 2008</a> than in 2006 or 2007, opening nearly 600 stores that year, according to Slate. The chain was able to take advantage of Americans' recession tastes: Cheap, convenient food.
They Handle Food That Isn't Really Food
One <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/w2sv3/fast_food_workers_of_reddit_what_is_the_one_menu/" target="_hplink">Reddit user claiming to be an ex-McDonald's worker</a> said he once left a bag of chicken nuggets out on the counter for too long and "they melted. Into a pool of liquid." That didn't stop him from loving the nuggets, "still delicious," he wrote.
Fast Food Companies See Huge Profits On The Backs Of Low-Wage Workers
More than <a href="http://www.nelp.org/page/-/Press Releases/2012/PR_MinWageCorpProfits.pdf?nocdn=1" target="_hplink">60 percent of low-wage workers</a> are employed by big corporations, according to a July analysis by the National Employment Law Project. And more than 90 percent of those companies were profitable last year.
The Average Pay For A Fast Food Worker In New York City Is $9 Per Hour
Fast food workers in New York City make an <a href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2012/11/fast_food_forward_strike_nyc.php" target="_hplink">average of $9 per hour</a>, according to the Village Voice. That comes to about $18,500 per year for full-time workers.
Fast Food Workers Are Unlikely To Get Paid Sick Days
For 40 percent of private sector workers, <a href="http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-11-28/news/bs-ed-sick-leave-20121128_1_sick-days-care-workers-service-workers" target="_hplink">taking a sick day</a> and still getting paid isn't an option, according to the Baltimore Sun. Fast food workers are especially likely to be part of that 40 percent.
The Boss Can Threaten To Take Workers' Health Care Away
Many fast food workers saw their health benefits put at risk this year, if they even had them at all. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/09/papa-johns-obamacare-john-schnatter_n_2104202.html" target="_hplink">Papa John's CEO John Schnatter</a> said he would likely reduce some of his workers hours so that he wouldn't have to cover them in response to Obamacare. Jimmy John's founder, Jimmy John Liautaud told Fox News in October that <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/your-world-cavuto/2012/10/16/jimmy-johns-founder-business-owners-unsure-future" target="_hplink">he would "have to" cut workers' hours</a> so that he wasn't forced to cover them under Obamacare.
The Average Hourly Pay At Many Fast Food Eateries Is Less Than $8 An Hour
The average hourly pay at McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and Taco Bell is less than $8 an hour, according to <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/50015355" target="_hplink">salary data cited by CNBC</a>.
The Median Age Of A Fast Food Worker Is 28
As more workers fight for limited jobs, many older employees are gravitating towards the fast food industry. The median age of a fast <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/11/mcjobs-should-pay-too-its-time-for-fast-food-workers-to-get-living-wages/265714/" target="_hplink">food worker is 28</a>, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited by the Atlantic. For women, who make up two-thirds of the industry's employees, that age is 32.
Labor Leaders Rarely Try To Unionize Fast Food Workers
Fast food worker's went on strike in late November in New York City, showcasing a rare effort to organize the industry's workers. Labor leaders often don't make an effort to organize these workers because the high turnover makes the challenge daunting.
Fast Food Workers Are The Lowest Paid Workers In NYC
For all their work, fast food workers get very little dough. The lowest paid job category in New York City is "Combined Food Service and Preparation Workers, Including Fast Food," according to Bureau of Labor Department Statistics <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/11/29/in_rare_strike_nyc_fast_food_workers_walk_out/" target="_hplink">cited by Salon</a>.