Fast-food workers take to streets to get $15 per hour

September 4, 2014
Protesters block traffic on Mack Avenue in Detroit as part of a national protest to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Hundreds of workers from McDonald's, Taco Bell, Wendy's and other fast-food chains are expected to walk off their jobs Thursday, according to labor organizers of the latest national protest to push the companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Protesters block traffic on Mack Avenue in Detroit as part of a national protest to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. Fast food workers in Los Angeles joined their counterparts across the country on this day. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Fast food workers in Los Angeles joined their counterparts across the country today in rallies calling for $15-an-hour wages and the right to form a union.

An unknown number of workers, bolstered by hundreds of members of the Service Employees International Union, rallied outside a McDonald’s on Martin Luther King Boulevard in South Los Angeles beginning at about 5 a.m.

The protest — dominated by SEIU members — later moved to Fifth and Flower streets in downtown Los Angeles, and protesters marched to a McDonald’s near Broadway and Fifth Street. A small group of the protesters sat in a circle in the road. Police said 10 people were arrested for “failure to disperse.”

The protests mirrored similar rallies that have been held in Los Angeles and at fast-food outlets nationwide over the past two years. Workers at McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants in South Los Angeles took part in a protest in May.

The workers contend they are being paid poverty-level wages. They have argued that the more than 100,000 fast-food workers in the Los Angeles area earn a median wage of about $9 an hour, and they point to a study that an adult with a child needs to earn $29.34 an hour just to afford basics and make ends meet.

Today’s protests came as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pushes for gradual increases in the minimum wage in Los Angeles. His proposal would raise the minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017. The proposal, however, is already meeting resistance from business leaders, who say the increase would force businesses to lay off workers or dramatically raise the costs of goods and services.

“The kind of wage hike being proposed in Los Angeles is a blatant overestimation of what the businesses in this community can bear,” said Jot Condie, president/CEO of the California Restaurant Association. “The state minimum wage just climbed to $9 in July, leaving little time to analyze the fallout. This is simply too much, too fast — ignoring all the other aspects that go into overall compensation, including tips and benefits.”

The protests also came about a month after the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the McDonald’s corporation has major control over employees’ working conditions and wages, despite contentions by the restaurant chain that such decisions are largely left to local franchise owners.

McDonald’s officials said the company will contest the NLRB decision, which it claims “changes the rules for thousands of small businesses, and goes against the franchise model in the United States.”

The company has stated in the past that it is committed to giving employees “opportunities to succeed,” saying the chain has “a long, proven history of providing advancement opportunities for those who want it.”