Food worker strike comes to Madison

Food worker strike comes to Madison
Fast food workers and supporters on strike off South Park Street in front of McDonald's, part of nationwide walk out for wages.

Fast-food restaurants along South Park Street in Madison were the local targets of a nationwide walkout for wages on Thursday.

Fast food workers and supporters were in front of numerous restaurants on South Park Street and are expected to rally on State Street Thursday afternoon. U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan is scheduled to speak.

Organizers say it will be the largest strike to hit the $200 billion fast-food industry.

Workers from fast food giants McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Yum Brands-owned KFC are calling on their employers to pay them a minimum of $15 an hour and allow them to form unions without retaliation.

Currently, the median pay for the fast-food workers across the country is just over $9 an hour, or about $18,500 a year. That’s roughly $4,500 lower than Census Bureau’s poverty income threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four.

Doubling the minimum wage would take jobs away from the very people the protesters want to help – workers in entry-level jobs, according to a release from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

“Wisconsin’s economy is finally recovering from a devastating recession, and the hospitality industry has just started to grow sales and create jobs again,” Pete Hanson, vice president of public affairs for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association said in the release. “This would be an inopportune time for the government to mandate higher wages. Employers would have to cut jobs, raise prices, or both, to account for the increased cost.”

Strikes are also planned in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York and dozens of other cities.

The campaign, organized by a coalition of labor, community and clergy groups called Fast Food Forward, has been building momentum since last November, when the protests first hit the national spotlight.

Organizers say retail workers from stores such as Macy’s, Sears, Walgreens and L Brands’ Victoria’s Secret will also go on strike Thursday in some cities.

The protests have caught the attention of the White House. Earlier this summer, the “low-wage worker” protests were mentioned in a blog post written by National Economic Council director Gene Sperling and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Alan Kruege. They said that raising the minimum wage was part of President Barack Obama’s economic vision.

Food worker strike comes to Madison