NEW YORK – Hundreds of fast food workers and supporters protested outside New York City restaurants Thursday to demand higher wages for their low-paying jobs, including about 60 at a midtown Wendy's who chanted: "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Minimum wage has got to go!"
Linda Archer said she has worked at a nearby McDonald's for three years and makes $8 an hour. The protesters want fast food restaurants to pay $15 per hour, almost double the current statewide hourly average of $8.25. New York City has among the world's most expensive rents.
"I'm asking for respect, I'm asking for $15, I'm asking for a union, I'm asking for job security," she said.
McDonald's said in a statement that it values and respects all the employees who work at its restaurants.
The state Legislature last month voted to raise New York's hourly minimum wage of $7.25 to $9 by 2016.
But Scott DeFife, an executive vice president for the National Restaurant Association, said Thursday, "Current city and state proposals aimed at increasing the minimum wage and mandating paid leave would have a cumulative effect of significantly increasing the cost of doing business in New York and restrict the ability of the industry to create jobs."
DeFife released a statement saying, "The restaurant industry provides opportunities for millions of Americans, women and men from all backgrounds, to move up the ladder and succeed."
The day of picket lines organized by a coalition of unions and community groups followed a similar job action last November. Organizers said they expected hundreds of workers to demonstrate Thursday at dozens of fast food establishments, including McDonald's, Domino's, Wendy's and Pizza Hut.
Fast food workers deserve union representation, said Richard Trumka, national president of the AFL-CIO, who stopped by the Wendy's protest.
"They're being mistreated, they're being underpaid, they're going to stand together until they get fair treatment and we're going to stand with them," Trumka said.
Shahnaz Perveen ate her lunch inside Wendy's while protesters marched outside but said she supported the workers' demands. "They work really hard," she said.
Thursday's action also commemorated the assassination 45 years ago of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn., where he was supporting a strike by sanitation workers.
Several pickets wore signs that said "I am a man" or "I am a woman," echoing placards carried in Memphis in 1968.