Similar strikes have occurred in the past in Brooklyn and Manhattan, however this coordinated effort gained national attention because workers in cities like Charleston, SC, Providence, RI, and Pittsburg also walked off the job for the first time.
The first walkouts took place in November 2012 in New York City, when over 20 fast food restaurants were left empty as staff called for higher wages.
“If it wasn’t clear to corporations before, these massive strikes should make it clear today: poverty wages for working families cannot continue,” said Bill Lipton, New York State director of the Working Families Parties. “They defy New Yorkers’ sense of a fair shake, and the Working Families Party will not rest until workers don’t have to struggle to get by on full-time jobs.”
Many who took to the streets in Brooklyn said that working for the $7.25-per-hour minimum wage is making it impossible to provide for their families, given the high cost of living in New York City.
Many elected officials in New York City supported the fast food workers.
“I believe that hardworking employees should be paid a living wage,” said Congressman Joe Crowley, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx. “With earnings on the rise, companies should be doing more to share the gains with workers. This makes sense for our economy, as well increasing worker wages will not only strengthen out communities, it will spur economic growth.”
One freshman Brooklyn assemblyman rallied with the workers last week.
“Too many hardworking people in Brooklyn and across the nation are in a state of crisis, breaking their backs each day only to remain stuck in the cycle of poverty without any hope for upward mobility,” said Assemblyman Walter Mosley. “The fast food industry continues to grow and grosses nearly $200 billion in the U.S. alone, but it is doing this by exploiting working families already struggling just to get by.”
Officials in the restaurant industry have criticized the actions as part of an attention-grabbing campaign that takes advantage of its employees.
“These demonstrations are a coordinated public relations campaign engineered by national labor groups where the vast majority of participants are activists and paid demonstrators,” said a spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association.
The spokesperson added that the restaurant industry was one of the only that continued to create jobs during the recession, and that tampering with wages could have negative impacts.
“Dramatic increases in a starting wage, such as those called for in these rallies, will challenge that job growth history, increase prices for restaurant meals, and lead to fewer jobs created,” the spokesperson said.