New York fast-food workers demand $15 wage, right to organize

Hundreds of fast-food workers rallied together outside of dozens of New York fast-food restaurants as part of demonstrations demanding higher wages and for the right to organize without ramifications from employers. The organization is calling for a $15 hourly wage, up from the median wage of $9, even in this economy.

Protests were staged in front of various Wendy’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonald’s locations across the city. The demonstrations were put together by a coalition of labor, community and clergy groups called Fast Food Forward – it coincided with the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who was shot and killed as he supported low-wage sanitation workers.

The minimum wage in New York is $7.25, but many workers in the food sector may earn $4.65 per hour because their position includes tips. According to the New York Labor Department, there are 50,000 fast-food workers in New York City and the average annual salary is $18,500. This amount is $4,500 lower than the poverty income threshold level of $23,000 for an average family of four.

“In America, people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, childcare and transportation,” Fast Food Forward states on its website. “While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers are barely getting by — many are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job. Raising pay for fast food workers will benefit workers and strengthen the overall economy.”

The petition to raise the wage has generated close to 122,000 signatures (at the time of this writing).

Some of the restaurants commented on the demonstrations. A spokesperson for McDonald’s told the New York Daily News that the majority of its chains are owned and operated independently. A spokesperson for Domino’s Pizza told CNN that its company-owned stores pay their deliverymen the minimum wage plus tips.

Opponents of raising wages for these fast-food workers argue that it could hurt franchisees because most of them are small business owners, according to Scott DeFife, executive vice president of policy and government affairs at the National Restaurant Association, who spoke with the news network.

“Any additional labor cost can negatively impact a restaurant’s ability to hire or maintain jobs,” explained DeFife.

When customers purchase something from a business they are paying for the labor costs, benefits, overhead costs, revenues and profits. This means that if labor costs go up then patrons may not acquire the good or service because it’s too expensive – this is the evidence to suggest that minimum wage laws hurt the overall economy. Furthermore, when the minimum wage increases it hurts those unskilled and uneducated because they won’t be able to find jobs or could even lose their jobs.

Also, an entry level job at an establishment like McDonald’s was once considered as a means to garner experience to put on your resume, earn a bit of extra cash to pay for school or as a part-time job to supplement your income. The general consensus is that a job at a fast-food restaurant should not be considered as a career endeavor or full-time employment.

After national media outlets reported that a McDonald’s franchise in Massachusetts was seeking a cashier with a Bachelor’s degree and experience – it later turned out to be an error – many commented on the state of employment among youth (double-digit jobless rate).

“Sadly we’ve taxed-and-spent our way to an economy in which there’s intense competition for just about any job. Combine that with government meddling in the student loan market that has artificially inflated the cost of higher education and young people are getting screwed over even worse than the country overall,” said Evan Feinberg, president of the Washington-based youth advocacy group Generation Opportunity, in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

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