Here’s What NYC Workers Want From Their Fast Food Employers

McDonald'sI am a Man,” read the sign of striking New York City Domino’s Pizza (NYSE:DPZ) deliveryman Noel Scott at a Thursday demonstration. As he told reporters from CNN, he earns just $5.45 an hour plus tips, even the though the minimum wage in the city is $7.25 an hour. Scott additionally moonlights as a security guard and a repairman in order to pay his bills, working 43 hours each week without any benefits.

“You don’t have a life when you get paid this little. My body is breaking down,” Scott told the publication. “And with no benefits, we can’t afford to get sick,” he adding, speaking for all in his same position.

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Scott joined more than 400 employees from approximately 60 restaurants who went on strike on Thursday in midtown Manhattan, calling for fast-food giants like McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), Wendy’s (NASDAQ:WEN), Burger King (NYSE:BKC), and Yum! Brands’ (NYSE:YUM) KFC and Taco Bell to raise their wages. The protesters were organized by a coalition of labor, community, and clergy groups named Fast Food Forward.

“By far, it will be one of the biggest actions that fast- food workers have taken in this country,” Jonathan Westin, executive director of advocacy group and organizer New York Communities for Change, said in an interview with Bloomberg before the strike. In November, a similar protest drew about 200 workers…

Workers are asking for $15-an-hour pay and the right to form a union, he explained. Currently, minimum wage may be as much as $7.25 an hour, but food service workers often earn as little as $4.65 an hour because their total compensation includes expected tips. According to CNN, the median pay for the 50,000 fast food workers in New York City is $9 an hour, or $18,500 a year, according to the New York Labor Department. But even that figure comes in $4,500 lower than the Census Bureau’s poverty income threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four.

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The strike began with a dozen workers walking off the job at a McDonald’s restaurant near Times Square, according to Westin.

Because of the widespread support generated by Thursday’s strike — which drew workers from more than 60 restaurants — Westin expected that many fast food chain locations would be forced to close. “At several of the stores we will have the majority of the workforce in the stores out on strike,” he said. “It will be difficult for businesses to continue as usual.

But according industry experts, the strikes may cause more problems than one day of missed day of business. Many of these fast-food chains operate on franchise basis, and raising wages could potentially be a burden for the franchisees, most of whom are small business owners. “Any additional labor cost can negatively impact a restaurant’s ability to hire or maintain jobs,” Scott DeFife, executive vice president of policy and government affairs at the National Restaurant Association, told CNN.

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