Commentary

Fast Food Workers Strike, Pols Talk, Public Eats

Like a video remote control moving from 2x to 4x, the Fast Food Forward movement gathered momentum yesterday as workers in about 60 cities took to the streets, demanding a starting wage of $15 -- more than double the current national floor of $7.25 -- and putting a face on what it means to be part of the working poor. 

The press is certainly paying attention -- and corporate and trade group and media relations departments are churning out reactions supporting workers’ rights to express themselves while defending the economics of the status quo -- but the impact on public perception and buying habits remains in question at this stage of the game. 

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The Associated Press’ Candice Choi, for example, cites 29-year-old Ryan Carter, who said he “‘absolutely’ supports the demand for higher wages” even as he “bought a $1 cup of coffee at a New York McDonald's targeted by protesters.” 

“They work harder than the billionaires in this city,” Carter tells Choi, who reports he “doesn't plan to stop patronizing the fast-food chain.”

Yesterday's demonstrations “followed several smaller strikes this year in the $200 billion U.S. fast-food sector,” organizers tell Reuters’ Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, that started in November when “some 200 workers walked off their fast-food jobs in New York City, and groups in Chicago, Kansas City, Detroit and other cities followed their lead in April and July.”

The activists “are now getting financial and technical” -- and blogging -- “support from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU),” Araxia Abrahamian reports.

“The names of the groups in various cities differ somewhat, going by names like Fast Food Forward in New York, to Fight for 15 in Chicago, to Raise Up in Milwaukee,” writes Maureen Morrison in Ad Age, who also reports that social media is driving the movement.  

“Organizers have put little effort into paid media,” Morrison observes. “Fast Food Forward recently took out Facebook ads in select cities promoting the cause, but no other paid media, such as a newspaper ad, has resulted. Fast Food Forward also launched the @LowPayIsNotOk Twitter handle and Facebook pages.”

Some politicians are mounting the barricades and microphones, too, as might be expected. Politico’s Tarini Parti offers a list of pols willing to get in front of the cameras in support of the legislation in various congressional districts.

“In New York, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined about 300 to 400 protesters in a march before flooding inside a McDonald's near the Empire State Building on Thursday morning. Shortly after the demonstration, however, the restaurant seemed to be operating normally and a few customers said they hadn't heard of the movement…,” reports FoxNews.com. “The lack of awareness among some illustrates the challenge workers face.”

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez tells the Associated Press that “he is taking a lead role in President Barack Obama’s push to boost the federal minimum from $7.25 to $9 an hour” -- a far more modest goal than that of the protesters, whose demands he compared to those of demonstrators in the 1963 March on Washington who sought a national minimum wage.

“For all too many people working minimum wage jobs, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity are feeling further and further apart,” he said. 

But any federal wage hike has to pass the House of Representatives, and that seems to be as unlikely as the McDonald’s’ menu going vegan.

Top Republicans such as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida have maintained that increasing the minimum wage will lead to job loss,” reports Politico’s Parti. “An amendment offered by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to increase the federal minimum wage was defeated in the House in March with every GOP member voting against it.” 

Former McDonald’s CEO and president Ed Renzi, who since has founded Tom & Eddies, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes earlier this week that the situation is all the politicians’ fault in the first place, QSRweb.com reports, maintaining that they “have failed, miserably, at creating jobs of substance" in the economic recovery and that workers have “got the [low-paying] jobs that they can get.” 

Renzi also advanced the industry’s talking point that increasing individual’s hourly wage will result in a loss of jobs overall and that most franchises are operated by small businesspeople operating on slim margins. He did, however, support a “sensible” increase in the minimum wage pegged to the living costs in individual markets (e.g. $12 in Hollywood; $9 in Canton, Ohio).

“The T&E Story” webpage tells the tale of two “long-term friends and business partners with similar backgrounds and interests, but vastly different personalities” founding Tom & Eddie’s in the quest for the “All-American burger.” One is described as “outspoken, boisterous and fast-thinking”; the other as “quiet, reflective and soft spoken.” If Renzi isn’t the former, whoa.

We’ll be back on the line early Tuesday morning. Happy Labor Day!

1 comment about "Fast Food Workers Strike, Pols Talk, Public Eats".
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  1. Tom Keane from USA Weekend, August 30, 2013 at 11:15 a.m.

    And how many of the people who say they are politically correctly supporting this are the very same people who do self check out at the supermarket thus putting many minimum wage workers out of a job? And, no matter what they say to a pollster they are NOT going to be happy with a doubling of the price of their fast food.

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