Fast-food workers in Phoenix, other cities to walk off jobs in demand for higher minimum wage

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- As part of their ongoing fight for a $15 minimum wage, fast-food workers in 150 cities, including Phoenix, are planning to walk off the job Thursday morning.

Minimum wage in Arizona is $7.90 an hour, which is more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

"I feel the need to protest because making minimum wage is just not enough," Rochelle Jordan, part of the so-call "Fight for 15"  told 3TV's Jill Galus. "I have to struggle to take care of my daughter."

Jordan said she nothing left after paying rent and basic bills.

In its Out of Reach 2014 report, the National Low Income Housing Coalition says Arizona housing costs more than low-wage earners can afford.

In order to rent a two-bedroom home at the fair market value of $911 in Arizona, an individual needs to make $17.52 an hour, $3,037 per month or $36,447 per year. That's more than twice the minimum wage in Arizona, which went up to $7.90 at the start of the year. The federal minimum wage is less -- $7.25 an hour.

Even though Arizona's minimum wage is slightly more than the federal mandate, a person making $7.90 an hour would have to work 89 hours a week, 52 weeks a year to afford that two-bedroom home.

The battle for a higher minimum wage and the right to unionize without retaliation has gone global with strikes and protests in a total of 34 countries on six continents.

Workers from Burger King, Taco Bell and other fast food chains are expected to strike and gather at one of Phoenix's most visited fast food restaurants. Clergy, elected officials, and community leaders and supporters will join fast-food workers on the strike lines.

In the U.S., strikes are expected in cities from Los Angeles to Boston, including the first-ever walkouts in Miami, Minneapolis, Orlando, and Philadelphia. Around the world, workers are planning major protests in cities in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Malawi, Morocco, New Zealand, Panama, and the United Kingdom.

A campaign that started in New York City in November 2012, with 200 fast-food workers walking off their jobs demanding $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation, has since spread to more than 150 cities in every region of the country.

The growing fight for $15 has been credited with elevating the debate around inequality in the U.S. When Seattle's mayor proposed a $15 minimum wage earlier this month, Businessweek said he was "adopting the rallying cry of fast-food workers."

As it spreads, the movement is challenging fast-food companies' outdated notion that their workers are teenagers looking for pocket change.

Founder and CEO of Phoenix-based Ryan Naylor has serious concerns about how a $15 minimum wage might affect businesses and hiring.

"Margins in the restaurant and food industry are very tight," he said. "Nearly doubling the minimum wage would be a big hardship on the employment momentum we have been seeing for the past three months. ... If the government creates a mandatory minimum wage increase as high as $15 per hour, we will not only see the hiring stop, but many small-business owners will be forced to let go employees."


Statement from McDonald's

“We respect everyone’s right to voice an opinion. McDonald’s respects our employees’ right to voice their opinions and to protest lawfully and peacefully. If employees participate in these activities, they are welcomed back and scheduled to work their regular shifts. We value our employees’ well-being and the contributions they make to our restaurants, and thank them for what they do each and every day. Our restaurants remain open today and every day thanks to the dedicated employees serving our customers. We respect the right of employees to choose whether or not they want to unionize."
--Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, McDonald’s Global External Communications

Statement from Burger King

Burger King Corp. (BKC) is aware of activity in a number of the communities where we do business.  As a corporation, BKC respects the rights of all workers.  For decades, BURGER KING® restaurants have provided an entry  point into the workforce for millions of workers, including many of the system¹s franchisees who began their careers working at local BURGER KING® restaurants.

BKC and the franchisees who independently own and operate 99% of BURGER KING® restaurants support and invest in the thousands of restaurant team members across the system.  In addition, through the BURGER KING McLAMORE(SM) Foundation, BURGER KING® employees and their families in North America are eligible for college scholarships to encourage further growth and education.

During this time, customer service and quality will remain a top priority in all BURGER KING® restaurants.

BURGER KING® Media Relations Team