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Fast Food Workers Arrested While Protesting for Higher Wages

Fast Food Workers Arrested While Protesting for Higher Wages

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Fast food workers in New York and Detroit were arrested this week during peaceful protests for a $15 minimum wage

Fast food workers were arrested this week during peaceful protests for higher wages.

Fast food workers in New York City and Detroit were arrested on Thursday, September 4 as they engaged in nonviolent demonstrations and sit-ins to protest their low wages, reports The New York Times. The “Fight for Fifteen,” which has gained nationwide awareness and even similar demonstrations across the globe, has waged on with increasing intensity since 2012.

In New York City, 21 employees were arrested on Thursday during a sit-in protest outside of a McDonald’s in Times Square. In Detroit, more than 50 workers were arrested for similar acts of civil disobedience.

Thursday marks the seventh in a series of single-day strikes, with walkouts planned for more than 100 cities across the US.

So far, fast food companies have denounced the wage protests, maintaining that a $15 wage “would wipe out the profit margins at many fast-food restaurants,” the International Franchise Association told The New York Times.

Currently, many fast food workers across the country are limited to the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which adds up to about $15,000 a year.

Over the Labor Day weekend, President Obama voiced support for fast food strikers during an appearance in Milwaukee.

“There's a national movement going on made up of fast food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity," said Obama. "If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, I'd join a union."

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.

Fast Food Workers Arrested At Minimum Wage Protest Rally

CHICAGO (CBS) — More than a dozen protesters were arrested Thursday morning on the South Side, after the street in front of a McDonald’s and a Burger King, as part of a nationwide effort to get fast food restaurants and other businesses to pay workers at least $15 an hour.

CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports fast food workers demanding a higher minimum wage staged an angry protest rally and sit-in on 87th Street between State and Wabash, demanding a significant increase in pay and the right to form a union.

The “Fight for $15” campaign has staged a series of rallies across the country over the past couple years, but this was the first time demonstrators planned acts of civil disobedience designed to result in arrests in an effort to raise the profile of their movement.

Hundreds of protesters descended on 87th Street around 8:30 a.m., chanting “take the streets” and “we shall not be moved” as they blocked traffic.

The protesters said Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to gradually increase Chicago’s minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2018 is a step in the right direction, but not a big enough step.

They vowed to do whatever it takes to get their message across.

Chicago police officers moved in to arrest 19 workers, after they sat on the street in a line between the McDonald’s and the Burger King on 87th Street, and refused to leave. After about 10 minutes, officers began handcuffing demonstrators who ignored police orders to disperse.

As they were hauled away to police cars and SUVs, those who were arrested said it was worth it to achieve their goal.

“I work for a McDonald’s in Hyde Park. We’re fighting for our rights to make $15 an hour, because we can’t feed our families. We can’t feed no one off $8.25 an hour,” Kimberly Cotton said. “It’s worth it to get arrested, because we are trying to feed our homes, feed our families, and $8.25, we can’t do nothing with.”

Donald Jenkins, who works at a McDonald’s in Auburn-Gresham, said he was doing “whatever it takes” to get a $15-an-hour wage.

“If I gotta pay a fine, I’m going to pay the fine. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get this $15,” he said.

Police News Affairs confirmed 19 people were arrested during the protest, but would not face criminal charges. Instead, they were issued administrative citations for blocking the street.

Remaining protesters cleared out by about 9:15 a.m. as heavy rain moved in.

Chicago was one of 150 cities where fast food workers planned to walk off the job on Thursday to stage protests and other acts of civil disobedience.

Past demonstrations have included a protest rally outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook during a shareholder meeting, and several one-day “strikes” by fast food workers in various major cities, including several in Chicago.

Fast food workers arrested while protesting for an increase in the minimum wage

BOSTON -- Eight fast food workers and one labor organizer were arrested on Thursday during an act of civil disobedience that was part of a protest over low wages.

The nine protesters were part of a group of more than 250 workers and activists organized by SEIU Local 1199 and Mass Uniting that marched from the State House to the Financial District calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 and the unionization of fast food workers across the industry.

The Boston march was part of a broader nationwide effort organized under the banner of "Fight for 15," a reference to their demands for an increase in the minimum wage to $15.

The protesters initially sat in in the middle of Washington Street in Downtown Crossing looking for police to arrest them.

When it became apparent that they would not be arrested by police the protesters moved to the intersection of Congress and State streets in the Financial District where they were arrested in an orderly manner within 15 minutes of their arrival.

Before his arrest, Wendelly Innocent, 18, a Dunkin' Donuts employee, said that fast food workers were willing to do whatever it takes to improve their situation.

"We just want to get $15 an hour and a union," said Innocent.

Minimum wage protests by fast food workers in the Greater Boston area have occurred sporadically since last fall when workers gathered outside a McDonald's and Burger King on Tremont Street.

The number of fast food workers at the protests has increased gradually as protests have gone on but they were still vastly outnumbered by activists. Workers in a nearby McDonald's on Washington Street declined to speak with reporters about the protest and appeared more interested in serving lunch than they did in the protests going on outside.

"I am going hard for $15 an hour because I really need it," said Barbara Fisher, 25, a Dunkin' Donuts worker and mother of two.

Fisher was later arrested at the protest for blocking traffic in the Financial District.

Workers from McDonald's, Popeyes, Subway and Burger King were present at the protest.

Organizers noted that the push to increase the minimum wage extends beyond the much maligned fast food industry. The fast food workers were joined by union and non-union home care workers as well as retail workers from national chains. Fast food jobs, organizers say, are no longer simply entry level jobs for teenagers in the modern economy.

A recently signed law by Governor Deval Patrick will raise the Massachusetts minimum wage to $11 by 2017.

Fast-Food Protesters Arrested In Pursuit of $15 Minimum Wage

Dozens of fast-food workers in Detroit and New York City were arrested for blocking traffic while protesting for a higher minimum wage.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Dozens of fast-food workers in Detroit and New York City were arrested for blocking traffic while protesting for a higher minimum wage. The protests are part of a larger movement in 150 cities during which workers promised walk outs, sit-ins and civil disobedience all in the name of pushing employers and Congress to gain the right to unionize and raise the minimum wage to $15 and hour.

An NYPD source told The Wire that 19 individuals were arrested in Times Square around 7:47 a.m. local time for disorderly conduct, for blocking vehicular traffic. Activists said the protesters were being treated well:

At the 7th Precinct where some of the workers were taken. Hearing they've been treated well, process going smooth. #StrikeFastFood

— Greg Basta (@GBNYChange) September 4, 2014

In Detroit, police arrested about two dozen individuals (estimates range from 20-25, or even as high as 40) who refused to stop blocking the road, out of 100 protesters who met near a McDonald's on the east side of the Detroit early in the morning, blocking the drive thru lane and the street.

Detroit police arrest people blocking traffic in national protest against fast-food wages.

— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) September 4, 2014

Local ABC station WXYZ spoke with assistant police chief Steve Dolan, who said that anyone arrested had their name run for any arrests warrants are were released. The protests was peaceful, and according to WXYZ and Dolan some individuals complained about tight handcuffs, but police were willing to loosen them.

Thursdays protests are part of a two year effort led by the Service Employees International Union to secure a $15 minimum wage and a right for fast food workers to unionize. In New York the minimum wage was raise to $8.00 an hour at the end of last year, while in Michigan it was raised this week to $8.15.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

Nine protesting fast-food workers arrested in Boston

A Boston police officer warned fast-food workers sitting in an intersection that they would be arrested if they did not move. Brian Snyder/REUTERS

Nine fast-food workers protesting for higher wages were arrested in Boston today after blocking traffic, part of an organized demonstration that also included workers in other cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and New York.

Organizers of the protest said that about 100 protesters were arrested nationwide in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Little Rock, Las Vegas, and Boston.

The movement, which is backed financially by the Service Employees International Union and others, has gained national attention at a time when the wage gap between the poor and the rich has become a hot political issue. Many fast-food workers do not make much more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which adds up to about $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week.

Organizers had said they would engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to draw more attention to their cause.

By late this morning, protesters in some cities were standing in front of fast-food restaurants, chanting for higher pay and holding signs in English and Spanish.

Two dozen protesters were handcuffed in Detroit after they wouldn’t move out of a street near a McDonald’s restaurant. In Chicago, a couple of buses unloaded a group in front of a McDonald's. They chanted, ‘‘Stand up. Fight back’’ while about 100 people crowded on the sidewalk.

Union organizers said they expected thousands to show up to today’s protests around the country.

The movement, which is backed financially by the Service Employees International Union and others, has gained national attention at a time when the wage gap between the poor and the rich has become a hot political issue. Many fast-food workers do not make much more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which adds up to about $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week.

Powerful Unions

Union organizers also celebrated a victory in July when the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel determined that McDonald’s has joint responsibility with franchise owners for how employees are treated. If upheld, the decision may bring McDonald’s to the table during collective bargaining, making unions more powerful.

The Times Square McDonald’s was chosen for a New York protest because of its prominent location, said Fells, 34. After previous demonstrations failed to draw much of a response from fast-food companies, workers knew they had to step up their tactics, Fells said.

“They were willing to put their bodies on the line,” he said. “They feel like the industry hasn’t responded yet and they wanted to get their attention.”

Employees Stay Home

Ahead of the protests, McDonald’s encouraged most of its 3,200 headquarters employees to work from home because of traffic concerns, Sa Shekhem said. Of its five headquarters buildings, McDonald’s closed one, which houses its U.S. business and employs about 2,000, she said.

The protesters were planning to picket the headquarters at 2111 McDonald’s Drive. Because of the shutdown, they instead targeted the nearby McDonald’s campus that houses Hamburger University and a Hyatt Lodge.

“The closing reflects McDonald’s refusal to address the growing concerns of workers and failure to take action to raise wages,” Deivid Rojas, communications director for the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, said in a statement. The protesters had planned to return to McDonald’s headquarters today when its shareholder meeting begins.

McDonald’s and other chains are facing growing criticism for not paying workers enough. Since November 2012, when fast-food employees picketed in New York for wages of $15 an hour and the right to form a union, protests and strikes have spread to McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King across the country. Earlier this month, some fast-food workers also demonstrated overseas.

U.S. Fast-Food Workers Protest for Higher Wages

Protesters gather inside a Taco Bell restaurant in Kansas City, Mo. on Thursday as part of a national protest to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour.

Julie Jargon

Labor activists ramped up their push for higher wages for fast-food workers with demonstrations Thursday that blocked traffic in a number of cities and resulted in what organizers said were hundreds of arrests.

The acts of civil disobedience by workers from McDonald's Corp. and other big chains were an effort to draw more attention to a two-year campaign backed by a major labor union to increase fast-food wages to $15 an hour—more than twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 that many such workers now earn—and to gain the right to organize.

Organizers said they planned the disruptions, with workers and community activists that support their cause taking part in civil-disobedience training to prepare for the coordinated demonstrations in 150 cities, including New York, Detroit, Little Rock, Ark., and Las Vegas.

The organizers said 436 people involved in the protests had been arrested as of midafternoon across several cities for obstructing traffic and other disorderly conduct. In Kansas City, Mo., 47 people were arrested outside of a McDonald's for sitting in the middle of the street blocking a highway entrance, according to the Kansas City Police Department.

"McDonald's restaurants are open for business as usual and welcoming customers," McDonald's said in a statement early Thursday, adding that it hadn't received reports of service disruptions. The company suggested that protesters were being paid to participate. "We reiterate that these aren't 'strikes' but are staged demonstrations in which people are being transported to fast-food restaurants," it said.

Fast-food protests: Dozens of workers arrested in strike for higher pay

Dozens of fast-food workers from Los Angeles to Manhattan were arrested as they escalated a fight for better pay Thursday with strikes, rallies and acts of civil disobedience.

Police took 10 people into custody after the protesters linked arms and sat down in front of a McDonald’s in downtown Los Angeles. The sit-in capped a midday march through the urban core by hundreds of workers and their supporters.

In San Diego, 11 marchers were arrested for blocking an intersection in the blue-collar neighborhood of City Heights. They were cited for unlawful assembly and released.

Ralllies and sit-ins occurred outside McDonald’s restaurants across the country, including Rockford, Ill. Hartford, Conn. Boston Philadelphia Atlanta and Miami. Elsewhere, 19 fast-food workers were arrested in New York 42 in Detroit 23 in Chicago 11 in Little Rock, Ark. and 10 in Las Vegas.

In downtown Los Angeles, protesters seeking wages of $15 an hour staged a lunchtime march before converging in front of a McDonald’s on Broadway. To the sounds of a beating drum, they cycled through chants such as “We want 15 and a union!” and “Si se puede!”

After police warned the crowd to stop blocking traffic lanes, nine fast food workers and a minister remained seated. They were arrested and led away, their hands bound with plastic zip-ties behind their backs.

It was just one of several demonstrations that were planned in the Southland.

Before dawn, more than 100 workers converged on a McDonald’s in L.A.'s Exposition Park to join the nationwide protests. They went inside the store for 10 minutes as workers stood stone-faced behind the cash registers.

The protesters held up signs and chanted slogans like “Get up! Get down! Fast-food workers run this town!” near a scrum of media trucks outside the McDonald’s.

Fanny Velazquez, 36, said she was participating in the protest to fight for better wages to support her family. A single mother with three children, ages 11, 14 and 16, she said she struggles to make her $9.34-an-hour pay cover all the bills.

The South Los Angeles resident has been working at McDonald’s for eight years doing a variety of jobs, usually working 20 hours a week, she said. But lately, Velazquez said, the company has often cut her hours to 15 a week. She also qualifies for welfare and food assistance.

“It’s difficult, it’s not enough to pay my bills,” she said.

A series of protests funded in part by the Service Employees International Union and local activist groups have sought to spotlight the plight of low-wage workers and push for higher pay by staging protests and walkouts in more than 100 cities in the one-day demonstration.

In San Diego, several hundred fast-food workers and their supporters marched past McDonald’s, Burger King and Jack in the Box restaurants. The protesters are “fighting for what we believe is right,” said the Rev. Lee Hill of the United Church of Christ.

The San Diego protest comes as business leaders there are attempting to qualify a measure for the ballot to overturn the City Council’s recent decision to raise the local minimum wage to $11.50 by 2017.

In New York, a crowd of about 300 converged outside a McDonald’s near Times Square at the height of morning rush hour, briefly blocking West 42nd Street. Police arrested about two dozen of the protesters.

And in Chicago, almost two dozen protesters were arrested near a McDonald’s where 150 gathered.

McDonald’s said in a statement that it respected “everyone’s rights to peacefully protest” and supported “paying our valued employees fair wages.”

The fast-food chain said the minimum wage discussion affects the entire country, not just one company, and should be considered within a broader context of issues, including the effects of the Affordable Care Act.

“We believe that any minimum wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners of small- and medium-sized businesses -- like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants -- is manageable,” the company said.

McDonald’s pointed out that it does not set wages for its more than 3,000 franchisees in the U.S. Burger King also said it does not make wage or scheduling decisions for its franchisees, which operate nearly all of its restaurants.

Sue Hensley, spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Assn., said the Thursday job actions were part of a “multimillion-dollar campaign” orchestrated by labor groups that are trying to boost their “dwindling membership.”

“The activities have proven to be orchestrated union PR events where the vast majority of participants are activists and paid demonstrators,” she wrote in an email. “Restaurants continue to be a critical employer that trains America’s workforce and provides a pathway towards upward mobility and success.”

Many fast-food chains and independent restaurants have said that a $15 hourly wage would lead to big price increases on their menus or make it impossible to eke out a profit. Some industry watchers say that restaurants may try to cut costs by slashing hours for employees or reducing their workforces, ultimately hurting the same people who are fighting for better pay.

Edgar Gonzalez, 22, of Inglewood is hopeful that the protests will help ensure a better future for his family. He and his girlfriend both work at McDonald’s -- she is a manager, while he works in maintenance. Together, they can still barely afford to cover all their expenses, especially with a 4-month-old daughter, he said.

“Sometimes we find whatever change there is to buy formula, wipes, diapers,” Gonzalez said. He said they often make the choice between paying rent and buying healthy food to eat.

Workers at Burger King and other fast-food eateries in Los Angeles were also planning to walk out Thursday to demand the $15-an-hour wage, organizers said.

“Fast food is an industry that is doing exceedingly well, and workers feel they are in a good position to bargain for $15 an hour,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president of Community Coalition, a local advocacy group in South L.A. that is participating in the local protests. “Workers of different stripes have been pressing to raise the conversation about the low end of the wage scale.”

Home-care workers are also joining in some Thursday protests in an effort to widen the movement, although none are participating in Los Angeles.

Hours after the morning protest in Manhattan, marchers gathered again on the busy corner of 8th Avenue and 56th Street, where several were swiftly arrested and taken away in a police van after they lay down on the pavement and blocked traffic.

Naquashia LeGrand, a KFC employee in Brooklyn, said she works 12 hours a week and earns $8 an hour. In three years on the job she has gotten one raise, she said, from $7.25 an hour, which was the previous state minimum wage, to the current $8.

“Full-time or part-time, we deserve a livable wage,” said LeGrand, who added that she would love to work more hours. “I’m here today, honestly, to better the future for the next generation,” she said, accusing big corporations of taking advantage of workers like herself.

Lunchtime diners at a nearby open-air bar watched the protest and arrests, which lasted no more than half an hour. “Good for them,” one man in a business suit said who was weaving his way through protesters as they chanted and disrupted traffic. “Everyone deserves to make a living. “

The fight for a living wage and higher minimum pay has gained steam this year as rallies, sit-ins and strikes have raised awareness of the issue.

In June, Seattle leaders voted to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, the highest minimum of any metropolis in the country. The Los Angeles Unified School District signed a contract in July to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2016, which will boost the earnings of its lowest-paid employees, including custodians and cafeteria workers.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is pushing for a $13.25 minimum wage for all workers in L.A. by 2017. California’s current minimum wage is $9 an hour.

On Labor Day, President Obama touched on the fast-food movement during a speech in Milwaukee.

“All across the country right now there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity,” he said Monday. “There is no denying a simple truth. America deserves a raise.”

Follow Shan Li on Twitter @ShanLi

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Shan Li covered the retail and restaurant industries for the Los Angeles Times. She previously reported on the California economy and the technology sector. A Texas native, she graduated from the business school at New York University, where she decided journalism was much more interesting than a job on Wall Street. She left The Times in 2017.

Tina Susman, an Oakland native, is a former New York-based national correspondent who joined the Los Angeles Times as Baghdad bureau chief in January 2007. She got her start as a foreign correspondent with the Associated Press in South Africa, covering the end of apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela. Dubbed by past editors “the master of disaster,” she has also worked in west Africa and done stints in Europe, Asia and Haiti. She is thrilled to now be in a city with quirky features, non-stop news, and functioning phones and electricity. She left The Times in 2015.

Tony Perry is the former San Diego bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times.

Fast-food workers strike nationally

Police handcuffed several protesters in New York and Detroit on Thursday as they blocked traffic in the latest attempt to get McDonald's, Burger King and other fast-food companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. (Sept. 4)

Protesters obstruct traffic on 42nd Street during a protest strike at a McDonald's in New York City. (Photo: John Taggart, epa)

The fast-food industry suffered some image indigestion Thursday when more than 430 workers demonstrating for higher wages in dozens of cities were arrested, organizers estimate.

Those arrested included Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., in West Milwaukee.

She joined fast-food workers from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles who put down their burger flippers and picked up picket signs in a strike for $15-an-hour minimum wages. The rallies included acts of civil disobedience — mostly blocking streets.

"There has to be civil disobedience because workers don't see any other way to get $15 an hour and a union," says Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fast Food Forward, a group backed financially by the Service Employees International Union, which organized the Thursday protests. "There's a long history of this, from the civil rights movement to the farm workers movement."

A number of fast-food workers make close to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or roughly $15,000 annually. Some say that is not a living wage, especially for workers who are supporting families.

In a statement, McDonald's said, "We believe that any minimum wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners and small- and medium-sized businesses — like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants — is manageable."

Strikers began to gather early Thursday in more than 100 cities at outlets for major fast-food chains from McDonald's to Wendy's to Burger King. Shortly after 7 a.m. ET on Thursday, police arrested 19 workers who sat down in the street outside a McDonald's at New York's Times Square, the New York City Police Department said. As many as several dozen striking workers were arrested in Detroit, as well.

In West Milwaukee, Moore, 62, a five-term congresswoman, was arrested after she joined a street sit-in and refused to leave when police told demonstrators to move, says Eric Harris, her press secretary. West Milwaukee police say at least 25 others were arrested.

"I take great pride in supporting Milwaukee workers as they risk arrest in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow for their families," Moore said in a statement.

The protest demands are for major fast-food companies to pay a $15-an-hour minimum wage and for workers to be able to unionize without retaliation.

Burger King cashier Terrence Wise, 35, who was arrested in Kansas City, Mo., says he's demonstrating for future workers and for his three daughters, ages 12, 10 and 8.

"Tomorrow, I've got to move out of my house because I can't afford to pay rent," says Wise, who has worked at Burger King for 10 years and earns $9.50 an hour. "It's not 4 million CEOs, but 4 million fast-food workers who keep these companies running."

In New York, more than 400 demonstrators gathered outside the Times Square McDonald's, and 14 men and five women were arrested and accused of sitting in the street and blocking traffic, police say.

The National Council of Chain Restaurants, an industry trade group, took issue with the protest tactics. "While it is common for labor unions to stage events in order to grab media attention, encouraging activities that put both restaurant workers and their customers in danger of physical harm is not only irresponsible, it's disturbing," said executive director Rob Green in a statement. "Unions are calling it 'civil disobedience' when in reality, this choreographed activity is trespassing, and it's illegal."


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