Workers at more than 70 fast food chain restaurants planned a walkout for Thursday in what organizers are saying is the largest-ever protest of its kind. According to CNN Money, the coalition of striking workers includes employees of McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, KFC and other major chains, as well as community and clergy groups dedicated to improving the lives of low-wage workers in the mostly non-unionized field of restaurant work.
Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, one of the main organizing groups behind the strike, told CNN that dozens of workers walked off the job at the Times Square McDonald’s and that the Flatbush Avenue Burger King in Brooklyn barely opened its doors on time Thursday morning due to the number of workers who are on strike.
The workers are asking for a minimum pay of $15 an hour and the right to organize and collectively bargain without fear of firing or retaliation. Currently, the median wage for fast food workers in New York City is $9 an hour, placing even full-time workers at an average income of $18,500 per year, well under the U.S. Census Bureau’s threshold for poverty-level income, $23,000 per year for a family of four.
Many workers are part time and receive no benefits. Some tell stories of having to skip meals in order to meet the expense of transportation to and from work. Workers who have participated in protests and attempted to organize in the past, however, say that they have faced retaliation in the form of reduced hours and pay cuts.