Workers at McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's restaurants across New York walked out Monday in a one-day strike to demand better pay and the right to unionize, calling for minimum wage to more than double from $7.25 to $15 an hour and the end to what activists called "abusive labor practices."
"It's noisy, it's really hot, fast, they rush you. Sometimes you don't even get breaks. All for $7.25? It's crazy," said Nathalia Sepulveda, who works at a McDonald's opposite Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, where one protest took place.
Outside the McDonald's as well as a Wendy's in lower Manhattan, workers chanted "we can't survive on $7.25" and "supersize our wages." At the Wendy's, the crowd shouted at customers not to go in and two police officers were stationed inside.
They were among hundreds of people who took part at locations throughout New York, activists said. Similar strikes were planned across America this week, organized by the national Fast Food Forward campaign, which was launched last year to tackle stagnating wages and the proliferation of low-wage jobs as the nation recovers from the recession, said campaign director Jonathan Westin.
"The workers' actions will lift up all of New York City," he said. "If they have more money in their pockets, they'll spend it right here, helping to boost the entire economy."
Doubling the minimum wage would have a "significant effect on the private sector's ability to create jobs, especially those typically filled by first-time workers and teens," said Scott DeFife of the National Restaurant Association. McDonald's had directed requests for comment to the trade group.
Spokesmen for Burger King and Wendy's both said they respect the rights of their workers.
"We're proud that Wendy's provides a place where thousands of people with different backgrounds and education levels can enter the workforce," said Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini.