Fast Food Workers Strike Across the Country

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Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Marcos Oleynick, 36, protests outside Burger King as part of a nationwide strike by fast-food workers to call for wages of $15 an hour, in Los Angeles, California August 29, 2013.

Employees of fast food companies are on strike around the country Thursday, demanding higher wages and union privileges. The Service Employees International Union claims the strike will hit as many as 60 cities from coast-to-coast. Fifty years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom demanded a $2 minimum wage, the workers are asking for the same buying power, calling for $15 dollars-a-day. The current minimum wage is $7.25.

“I think it really is a sign of things to come. It sort of is the vanguard of change,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, whose organization represents 12 million workers. “More to come unless the economy starts to work, with decent standards of living and benefits.”

Many of the fast food workers are expected to have support from their representatives in Congress. Democratic Reps. Judy Chu and Barbara Lee of California, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, John Conyers of Michigan, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green of Texas, and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, along with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are expected to join the workers, according to Politico.

Fast food jobs have notoriously low wages, which the SEIU claims are increasingly unfair in an industry that hauls in $200 billion. The nearly 505,000 American fast food cooks made on average $9.03 an hour last year, while the 2.9 million preparation and serving workers earned on average $9 an hour. In July, the average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was $23.98 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Previous strikes in New York this year have been unsuccessful.