Pressure Mounts Against Fast-Food and Retail Industries to Increase the Minimum Wage, as Strikes and Protests Increase
Further protests against the fast food industry were held on May 15 by a coalition of unions and community groups. There were 150 strikes staged in the United States, while dozens more were held in as many as 30 other countries. Organizers of these protests are demanding $15-per hour pay as the minimum wage and fast-food workers’ right to organize without retaliation. Organizers in the U.S. have turned to workers’ advocacy groups and unions abroad to put global pressure on U.S. based fast food restaurants.
This round of protests began more than a year ago when fast-food employees picketed in New York on November of 2012. The protests have been primarily aimed at fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, and KFC. Their focus is on conducting “minority unionism” through the use of corporate campaigns to stage demonstrations. Rather than waiting until they have gained majority support, they target the restaurants’ assets, good name, and reputation.
In a prelude to the protest planned for McDonald’s annual shareholders meeting the next day, on May 21, an estimated 1,000 protesters gathered to protest at McDonald’s corporate offices in Oak Brook, IL. In all, police made 138 arrests for local ordinance trespassing violations. A large number of those arrested were members of organized labor, including the President of the SEIU. Protesters have also targeted the retail industry recently, and employed tactics similar to those of the fast food protests. Mirroring the protests at McDonald’s corporate offices, an organization by the name of “OUR Walmart” carried out protests in 20 cities around the U.S. on June 4, and held a candlelight vigil outside the home of Walmart’s CEO on June 2, in advance of Walmart’s shareholders meeting on June 6.
The restaurants targeted have pointed out that a vast majority of their locations are actually owned by franchisees, who determine pay, and that they pay above the minimum wage in most cases. The median wage of fast-food workers in the U.S. is about $9.08 an hour on average, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, but 22 states and the District of Columbia, as well as several municipalities, require higher pay than the national rate. All told, 38 states have considered minimum wage bills during the 2014 session, and Connecticut ($8.70 to $10.10 by 2017), Delaware ($7.75 to $8.25 by 2015), Hawaii ($10.10 by 2018), Maryland ($10.10 by 2018), Michigan ($7.40 to $9.25 by 2018), Minnesota ($9.50 by 2016), West Virginia ($8.75 by 2015), and the District of Columbia ($8.25 to $11.50 by 2016) have enacted minimum wage increases so far in 2014. On June 2, Seattle voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage, up to $15 an hour in three to seven years. A rate of $15 per hour would be the highest minimum wage of any city in the country. Seattle's current minimum is the Washington State-mandated $9.32, which is currently the highest of any state. The City of San Francisco is also discussing raising its minimum to $15, while San Diego is considering a $13-an-hour wage, and Oakland is considering $12.25.