Fast Food Minimum Wage Protests Spread Across the Nation

McDonald's workers and supporters rally outside a McDonald's, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in Chicago. Fast-food workers calling for $15 an hour are picking up some more allies Wednesday. Airport workers, home care workers, Walmart workers and adjunct professors are among those set to join in the fight for $15 protests …
AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

On Wednesday protests over the lack of “social justice” in the minimum wages paid to fast food workers were held in many of the nation’s most populated urban areas.

Protests cropped up in cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, and Los Angeles as workers agitated for higher wages in the fast food industry–in particular the McDonald’s chain. Protests also spread to foreign cities such as Toronto, Sao Paulo, and Hong Kong. Activists are seeking to raise workers’ pay to $15 per hour.

Most protests went smoothly on Wednesday, but some protesters were arrested in various parts of the country. One protester was arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, and police had to warn protesters in New York City that if they trespassed inside any McDonald’s outlet they would immediately be arrested.

Many protesters are claiming that the issue is one of “social justice.” Kendall Fells, the organizing director for Fight For $15, one of the groups organizing the protests, said that the effort is not a run-of-the-mill fight over hourly pay.

“It’s something different,” Fells said. “This is much more of an economic and racial justice movement than the fast-food workers strikes of the past two years.”

But Fells’ group is hardly a grass roots organization, as it is heavily funded by the powerful Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

In fact, the ties to big labor is what brought Glenn Spencer, vice president of the Workforce Freedom Initiative for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to criticize the events.

“The protests aren’t about wages or working conditions, they are about promoting the SEIU’s campaign to unionize the fast-food industry. Yet after investing two years and at least $30 million in these PR stunts, the SEIU still struggles to find actual employees to participate, let alone express an interest in joining a union,” Spencer said.

McDonald’s also felt that in their case the protests were unfair. Corporate stores have already raised their pay scale, but many McDonald’s restaurants are owned by franchisees and corporate bosses cannot fully control what the pay scale is in those locations.

For its part, McDonald’s released a statement saying, “We respect people’s right to peacefully protest, and our restaurants remain open every day with the focus on providing an exceptional experience for our customers. Recently, McDonald’s USA announced a wage increase and paid time off for employees at its company-owned restaurants and expanded educational opportunities for eligible employees at all restaurants. This is an important and meaningful first step as we continue to look at opportunities that will make a difference for employees.”

With demands of workers causing the cost of business to potentially soar, though, some predict that automated order taking devices will soon replace live people in the fast food industry all in an effort to help keep costs down. In the end, the demands of “social justice” activists may cause jobs to be lost to automation.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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