Few participate in SEIU fast-food strikes in New York City

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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Very few employees at fast-food restaurants in New York City participated in walk-outs Thursday organized in part by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), an observer told The Daily Caller.

Though approximately 500 people reportedly gathered outside the Fifth Avenue McDonald’s in Manhattan Thursday morning for a rally, other fast-food places in the city saw very little organized activity and very few workers actually missed their shifts to participate in the strikes.

Members of the progressive group New York Communities for Change, which partnered with the SEIU on the anti-fast food campaign, patrolled strike areas in orange shirts while supposed workers were wearing white shirts. However, many of those in white shirts were not actually fast-food workers, according to the source.

The SEIU helped to organize walk-outs in more than 50 different U.S. cities Thursday to advocate for raising their wages, which, at an average of $9 per hour, are already higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Protesters reportedly demanded the right to unionize and to earn $15 per hour.

The Obama administration has made it a second-term policy goal to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour.

“You can’t have the same number of job opportunities in the restaurant industry and have a $15 minimum wage. These things can’t co-exist,” said Employment Policies Institute worforce scholar Michael Saltsman, whose think tank ran a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal depicting a robot making pancakes with the title, “Why Robots Could Soon Replace Fast Food Workers Demanding a Higher Minimum Wage.”

“[SEIU] is the prime organizer. They got in early with the funding and the organizing. It remains to be seen how many of these [walk-outs] are reflective of the employees” rather than the union leaders’ views, Saltsman said.

“[SEIU] has some direct skin in the game. Many SEIU contracts have minimum wage escalators, meaning that if the minimum wage goes up, then their contract states their members have to be paid a certain level higher than the minimum wage,” Saltsman said, noting that a minimum wage hike could be “devastating” for the franchisees who own the majority of McDonald’s restaurants.

The SEIU did not return a request for comment.

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