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Fast-food employees set to strike nationwide
NEW YORK Fast-food customers in search of burgers and fries today might run into striking workers instead.
Organizers say thousands of workers are set to stage walkouts in dozens of cities nationwide, part of a push to get chains such as McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Wendys to pay higher wages.
Its expected be the largest nationwide strike by fast-food workers, organizers say. The biggest effort so far was over the summer when about 2,200 of the nations millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities.
It was not clear whether Toledo was one of the cities where walkouts were planned.
An item on the Web site of Toledo-based UAW Local 14 called for people to support striking fast-food and retail workers today, but it didnt specify the locations.
Todays planned walkouts follow strikes that began in November in New York City, then spread to cities including Chicago, Detroit, and Seattle. Workers say they want $15 an hour, which would be about $31,000 a year for full-time employees. Thats more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year, which many fast-food workers make.
The move comes amid calls from the White House, some in Congress, and economists to boost the U.S. minimum wage, last raised in 2009. But most proposals seek a far more modest increase than those sought by workers, with President Obama wanting to raise it to $9 an hour.
The push has brought sizable media attention to a staple of the fast-food industry McJobs known for low pay and limited prospects. But the workers taking part in the strikes are a fraction of the industry. And its not clear if the strikes today will shut down any restaurants because organizers made their plans public in a call for workers to participate, which gave managers time to adjust staffing.
Over the last decade, fast-food stores have employed fewer teens and more adults who became desperate for any work as the economy tanked. And fast-food workers say they cant live on what theyre paid.
McDonalds Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. say they dont make decisions about pay for the franchisees that run most of their U.S. restaurants. For the restaurants it does own, McDonalds said the pay starts at minimum wage but the range goes higher, depending on the workers position and experience.
Wendys Co. and Yum Brands Inc., which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, did not respond to a request for comment.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which is giving the strikers financial help and training, said the actions in recent months show fast-food workers can be mobilized, despite the industrys relatively higher turnover and workers younger age. The reality has totally blown through the obstacles, she said.
The National Restaurant Association says the low wages reflect most fast-food workers younger age and little experience. Group spokesman Scott DeFife said that doubling wages would hurt job creation, noting that fast-food chains face higher costs for ingredients, as well as rules that will require them to pay more in health-care costs.
Still, the actions have struck a chord for some. Robert Reich, former Labor secretary in the Clinton administration, said the struggle of living on low wages is hitting close to home because of the economic climate. More and more, people are aware of someone either in their wider circle of friends or extended family who has fallen on hard times, he said.