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American Fast Food Workers Organize Nationwide Strike Over Wages

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Today fast food workers from across the country will strike to demand higher wages. The poorly compensated workers want to form unions in order to collectively bargain for benefits they can live on.

Fast-food workers across the United States are expected to stage their largest strike to date on Thursday in an almost year-long campaign to raise wages in the service sector. Employees of McDonald’s Corp, Wendy’s Restaurants LLC, Burger King Worldwide Inc and others have pledged to walk off their jobs in 50 cities from Boston, Mass, to Alameda, Calif., organizers say. They are expected to be joined by retail employees at stores owned by Macy’s Inc, Sears Holdings Corp and Dollar Tree Inc in some cities.

The strike follows a similar protest last November, when some 200 workers walked off their fast-food jobs in New York City. Groups in Chicago, Kansas City, Detroit and other cities followed their lead in April and July.

Previously, fast food jobs were considered temporary work; but in the wake of a depressed economy many Americans are going to be working in fast food for the foreseeable future and have decided to come together to fight for better wages. While these are multinational companies, they have to sell their products here.

The median wage for front-line fast-food workers is $8.94 per hour, according to an analysis of government data by the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for lower-wage workers. Virtually all private-sector fast-food jobs are non-union, and organizers say retaliation against workers who try to organize is common.

Martin Rafanan, a community organizer in St. Louis, Missouri, where the minimum wage is $7.35, said local employees of McDonald’s and Wendy’s were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement’s discussions about income inequality. But he added that the main reason for their frustration is financial.

Occupy Wall Street is an appropriate source given that an increasing number of the 99% are working in these jobs – part time and extremely low paying. If this is the “new normal” then rather than waiting for the next jobs that aren’t coming, it makes sense to demand the jobs people are doing now pay a living wage.

The fight for dignity continues.

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.