The Fast Food Workers “Fight For $15” Menu Is Here Again, But Turns Ugly

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Sep 04 2014
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Thousands of fast food workers have started their protests Thursday outside of restaurants such as McDonald’s, Domino, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Burger King. The protest campaign, known as “Fight for $15”, began on November 2012 and this will be the seventh strike ever since. Fast food workers, who are backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are expected to hit 150 cities.


On Thursday morning, organizers said dozens of workers had already been arrested in Detroit and New York’s Times Square. In what supposed to be peaceful civil disobedience, about 30 people among a crowd of 200 protesters marching around McDonald’s restaurant on Mack Avenue were arrested. Apparently, they had taken to locking arms and sitting in the street, preventing traffic from passing through.

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Detroit police say of the 30 people arrested, 24 were ticketed for blocking traffic and released. The remain six are being held because they have outstanding warrants, police said. Detroit Assistance Police Chief Steve Dolunt claimed he was okay with peaceful demonstration but the protesters should not block the roadway and prevent people from going to work or sending kids to school.


Interestingly, President Barack Obama mentioned the campaign at a Labour Day appearance in Milwaukee and has thrown his support behind a bill which could see the minimum wage could be raised to $10.10 an hour from the present $7.25 minimum. In general, most of the protesters were getting $7.50 an hour from their employers. But will this round of protest yield any positive results?

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If Seattle and Massachusetts’s minimum wage increases to $15 and $11 an hour respectively earlier this year were any indicators, the strikes which began in New York in 2012 seemed to have its own success. Hence, such demonstrations will surely happen again until their demands are met. But many companies have argued that paying workers more could lead to lost jobs and higher prices.


Unlike Denmark where the McDonald’s workers are paid about $21 an hour or a staggering $45,000 annually, thanks to their union, fast food workers in America are paid peanuts. But fast food workers here are not asking for a union or the 5-weeks paid vacation enjoyed by McDonald’s workers in Denmark. Besides better pay, they’re also frustrated of U.S. McDonald’s unfair labour practices.

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Workers often accused McDonald’s restaurants of illegally firing, threatening or otherwise penalizing workers for their pro-labour activities. Of course McDonald’s couldn’t care less simply because the company does not determine or help determine decisions on hiring, wages or other employment matters, at least that was what the company thought.


However, on July this year, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for labour and wage violations by its franchise operators. The strong argument by the workers – McDonald’s was a joint employer because it orders its franchise owners to strictly follow its rules on food, cleanliness and employment practices and that McDonald’s often owns the restaurants that franchisees use.

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Like it or not, it’s a marathon between the fast food workers and the wealthy corporations. Whoever blinks first lose the game. Positive news are trickling in for the thousands of workers but it’s a long and painful journey. Cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York are among those considering raising their minimum wages to $15 per hour. Still, there’ll always be the insulting question – do you really think you deserve $15 an hour as a fast food worker?


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