Fast food workers and labor unions joined forces on Thursday in Indianapolis and 59 other cities across the country to advocate raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
National organizations affiliated with the restaurants claim the proposed increase would negatively impact jobs.
“It has been by the grace of God that I made it to this point with what I make,” said Dwight Murray, a McDonald’s employee who was on strike Thursday.
“I’m doing it for better pay. I’m doing it for people scared to come out here,” said Amber Horton, another protester and a Taco Bell employee.
The fast food workers are being supported by several labor groups and area community groups including Central Indiana Jobs with Justice and the Community, Faith and Labor Coalition.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average for workers in this industry is $9 an hour.
“When McDonalds doesn’t pay a decent wage, that means these folks rely on public assistance for food and for healthcare. That means all of us are subsidizing McDonald’s and Taco Bell’s business model,” said Fran Quigley, an IU School of Law professor and a member of the Community, Faith and Labor Coalition.
The companies that make up the reported $200 billion fast food industry have stopped short of reacting publicly to the strikes in too much detail or at all. Several companies did not return requests for comment by Fox 59.
A Taco Bell spokesperson made this comment via email: “Because this is a matter that impacts the entire restaurant industry, I recommend that you speak with the National Restaurant Association who can provide you with an industry response.”
Washington, D.C.-based International Franchise Association did respond to the strikes, in part calling the proposed hike unrealistic.
“Mandating increased wages would lead to higher prices for consumers, lower foot traffic and sales for franchise owners, and ultimately, lost jobs and opportunities for employees to become managers or franchise owners,” said International Franchise Association President & CEO Steve Caldeira. “The franchise industry is a proven job creator and career builder, yet efforts to double the minimum wage to $15 would clearly jeopardize opportunities for existing and prospective employees.”
Caldeira also said franchisors do not determine wages. Franchisees, who are often small business owners, do, and they could be struggling to get by in the current economy.
‘They can be a part of the answer by paying a fair wage,” said Nancy Hollee, a Community, Faith and Labor coalition volunteer.
“I appreciate McDonald’s for what they have done and continue to do, but we feel much is to be desired,” said Murray.
Organizers of the strikes outside several restaurants across Indianapolis said they made their plans known ahead of time so the businesses had time to properly prepare. They also believe this national effort could be the largest yet.