Thousands of fast food workers in dozens of cities
went on strike last week, with the announced goal of raising
the minimum wage for employees of burger chains such as McDonald’s,
Burger King and Wendy’s.
In late 2013, Reason TV covered the sparsely-attended New York
City edition of one of these fast food strikes:
“What We Saw at NYC’s Fast Food Strike.” About 2.30
minutes. Produced by Jim Epstein and hosted by Naomi
Original release date was December 6, 2013 and the
original writeup is below.
Yesterday, Naomi Brockwell and I attended a demonstration
demanding that fast-food restaurants boost their minimum wage to
$15 per hour, or a little more than double the current federal
minimum wage. The strike, which was led by a group
called Fast Food
Forward that’s affiliated with the Service Employees International
Union (SEIU), was one of more than a 100 similar
demonstrations held in cities across the country.
The New York demonstration had about 150 people, but the number
of actual fast food employees participating in the strike was
small. It was business as usual at every restaurant we dropped
by yesterday morning and, at a McDonald’s restaurant on 23rd
Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, employees behind the
counter said they had heard nothing about a strike.
We caught up with the protesters in front of a Wendy’s in
downtown Brooklyn, where the crowd consisted of union organizers,
fast-food workers, and their sympathizers. An estimated one-third
of the demonstrators were fast-food employees, meaning that less
than one-tenth of 1 percent of New York City’s 57,000 fast-food
workforce participated in the strike.
The group was traveling from one fast-food restaurant to
another, before winding up at Foley Square in Manhattan around
Multiple strikers told us they had received compensation through
a union strike fund to appear, but declined to say the amount they
Artificially doubling wages to $15 an hour would change many
things in the fast food industry, including the easy path it
provides for low-skilled employees to break into the labor market.
Substantially higher wages would mean that existing employees would
be less apt to look for other positions, and senior staffers would
be more inclined to hog shift hours. Franchisees would likely move
more aggressively to replace human service workers with automated
cash registers, which is already
happening in European McDonald’s. Evidence of how
artificially boosting wages destroys opportunities for entry level
workers was best documented in a 2006 study by
economists David Neumark and William Wascher, which
was updated in
In interviews, several striking workers described how it had
been relatively easy for them to get a job in fast-food service.
Shenita Simon, who works as a shift supervisor at KFC, told us that
she doesn’t know where else she would have been able to find a
position, because fast food is the only industry that “will allow
you to have minimum education.” Isaac Wallace, a Burger King
employee, described how he was able to get his job immediately
after moving to New York from Jamaica by simply walking into a
Burger King in Brooklyn and approaching the manager.
Once the strike moved to Foley Square, organizers from Fast Food
Forward began obstructing our efforts to talk with protesters.
For more on why doubling wages for fast food workers would hurt
entry-level workers, read Nick Gillespie’s “Big
Labor’s Big Mac Attack” at The Daily
Produced by Jim Epstein and hosted by Naomi Brockwell.
About 2.30 minutes.
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