This week fast food workers in cities across the country protested for higher wages, resulting in few restaurant closures but hundreds of arrests.
USA Today reports that of all those who were arrested participated in the strike to demand a $15 an hour minimum wages for fast food workers. Organizers of the protests estimated 430 were arrested Thursday.
Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fast Food Forward, explained how demonstrators used civil disobedience and other methods to protest.
Fast Food Forward helped to organize the strike and is in large part financially backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
“There has to be civil disobedience because workers don’t see any other way to get $15 an hour and a union,” Fells told USA Today. “There’s a long history of this, from the civil rights movement to the farm workers movement.”
Protestors were seen demonstrating in front of popular fast food chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King.
McDonald’s said in a statement, “We believe that any minimum wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners and small- and medium-sized businesses — like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants — is manageable.”
The New York City Police Department said that by 7:00 am EST nineteen workers were arrested for blocking off a street by sitting down outside a McDonald’s in Times Square.
Additionally, Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore was arrested after she joined a street sit-in and refused to leave after police told the protestors to move.
“I take great pride in supporting Milwaukee workers as they risk arrest in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow for their families,” Moore said in a statement.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also expressed support for the protestors in a statement. “Working families everywhere applaud the courage of the fast food workers who are striking today and engaging in acts of civil disobedience in over 150 cities,” Trumka said. “And we applaud the unity and the collective spirit displayed by members of AFL-CIO state federations and labor councils who have joined today’s protests in solidarity.”
Rob Green, executive director of The National Council of Chain Restaurants expressed concern over the tactics used during these protests.
The National Council of Chain Restaurants is an industry trade group.
“While it is common for labor unions to stage events in order to grab media attention, encouraging activities that put both restaurant workers and their customers in danger of physical harm is not only irresponsible, it’s disturbing,” Green said in a statement to USA Today. “Unions are calling it ‘civil disobedience’ when in reality, this choreographed activity is trespassing, and it’s illegal.”
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