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New York fast food workers strike

Fast food workers take protest action in New York today.

Fast food workers take protest action in New York today.

NEW YORK — Hundreds of fast-food restaurant workers in New York City were expected to walk off the job today in what organisers said would be their largest rally yet for better pay.

Employees from familiar chains such as McDonald’s Corp, Wendy’s and Yum Inc’s KFC are seeking to roughly double their hourly pay to $15. They also say they want the right to form a union without intimidation or retaliation.

Winning such concessions will be difficult. Low-wage, low-skill workers lack political clout and face significantly higher unemployment than college graduates.

As many as 400 workers from more than five dozen restaurants around New York City have committed to turn out for protests planned at various locations, said Jonathan Westin, director of Fast Food Forward, which organised today’s actions and is backed by labour, community and religious groups.

That turnout would be twice as large as in November, when the city’s fast-food workers also walked off the job, Westin said.

And, he said, the majority of employees from some individual fast-food outlets have vowed to participate.

“It’s going to be difficult for these businesses to operate this time,” Westin said.

The nearly $200 billion US fast-food industry long has been known as a employer of teenagers and students.

But the 18-month “Great Recession” that began in December 2007 helped change that. It destroyed thousands of middle-income jobs and forced more adults to seek part-time, largely minimum wage work flipping burgers and manning fryers.

In his State of the Union address in February, US President Barack Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage as a way to help lift some workers out of poverty – a plan critics said would kill jobs by burdening small businesses with higher costs. (Reuters)

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