CHICAGO - Fast food workers in at least 100 cities are planning to walk off the job this Thursday in what organizers describe as the largest strike action yet in their drive for higher pay.
Strikes will take place for the first time in cities like Charleston, S.C., Providence R.I., and Pittsburgh, Pa., according to organizers. Kendall Fells, an organizer for Fast Food Forward, said in additional cities where strikes cannot be organized, there will be a variety of protest actions in support of fast food workers.
The last big strike by fast food workers, which had the support of employees at fast food outlets all over this city, was on Aug. 29. That series of strikes was the biggest ever up to that point and took place also in some 50 other cities across the country.
The national strike wave at fast food places like McDonald's and Burger King began last November at more than 20 restaurants in New York City. Since then the strikes have spread first to other cities in the Northeast and then to the Midwest, the South and, most recently, to the West.
The demands at this Thursday's strikes will be for a pay raise to $15 an hour and the right to form a union.
Many workers at McDonald's, Burger King and other fast food chains earn only the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Company spokespeople have said that the minimum wage is usually earned by teenagers trying to make some extra money but numerous reports have shown that the biggest proportion of fast food workers range from 24 to 54 years of age, ThinkProgress reports, and that 70 percent of them earn only between $7.26 and $10.09 an hour, with more than 25 percent of having to support one or more children.
Another story circulated by the companies is how workers rise up to managerial positions. In reality, less than 2.2 percent of the industry's workers become managers of any type, Huffington Post reports.
McDonald's jobs and fast food jobs in general pay so little that fast food workers require $243 billion a year in public benefits such as food stamps and Medicaid.
McDonald's recently advised its workers how to budget and to stretch their income further. The advice included cutting food into smaller pieces to make it last, getting a second job, going without heat and selling Christmas presents for cash.
The campaign by fast food workers has boosted what has become a national drive for a higher minimum wage. President Obama has announced support for a bill in the Senate that would raise the minimum wage to more than $10 an hour and voters in the state of Washington recently voted to increase the wage of airport workers to $15 an hour
Supporters of wage hikes have won other battles as well. Voters in New Jersey, last month, approved a minimum wage hike from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour. California, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island also raised their minimum wages this year.
Workers in Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15 have received both organizational and financial support from the Service Employees International Union, which represents 2 million workers in a variety of industries including health care and building maintenance.
Many other unions have turned out many of their members at the fast food strike and protest actions.
Photo: Fast Food Forward Facebook page.