Workers, activists rally for $15-per-hour fast-food wage

Fast-food workers Danielle Wilson (left) and Justice Wallace march with about 100 others demanding a wage increase in North Philadelphia.
Fast-food workers Danielle Wilson (left) and Justice Wallace march with about 100 others demanding a wage increase in North Philadelphia. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff)
Posted: May 17, 2014

Philadelphia fast-food workers and activists joined protests Thursday in what was billed as a global fast-food strike, with workers in 150 cities and 30 countries reportedly participating.

It was Philadelphia's first official participation in a fast-food strike, although there have been strikes in Wilmington and rallies in the city on the issue of raising wages for fast-food workers to $15 an hour.

Industry associations say raising wages would force restaurant owners to cut positions or hours.

"It will only hurt business owners' ability to create entry-level jobs," the National Restaurant Association said in a statement. The rallies are "nothing more than big labor's attempt to push their own agenda."

That's no secret. Those chanting slogans at the McDonald's restaurant at Broad Street and Girard Avenue Thursday morning said they wanted union representation.

The Service Employees International Union, working with activist groups around the nation, has organized the campaign.

Here, its main partner is "Fight for Philly," a coalition of neighborhood and religious organizations pushing for better jobs and higher wages, particularly at Philadelphia International Airport.

The campaign comes at a time when President Obama is working to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

And, on Tuesday, Philadelphia voters can decide whether City Council should be allowed to raise the minimum wage for employees of companies doing business with the city or receiving city grants.

Pennsylvania's $7.25-an-hour minimum wage matches the nation's.

In New Jersey, the minimum wage is $8.25 an hour. Delaware's minimum wage, now $7.25, will rise to $7.75 on June 1 and to $8.25 on June 1, 2015.

Glenn Davis, 43, of West Philadelphia, was among those speaking to about 100 people at the rally. He said he would be unable to attend a second rally at the McDonald's at Broad and Arch Streets.

That's because he was due in court, trying to save his house from foreclosure.

"My check is $200 every two weeks," said Davis, who has worked at a McDonald's in West Philadelphia for more than a year. "It's hard when you go home and your electricity is off" and all the food in the refrigerator is ruined.

Davis, a father of three, said that in 2009 he had a job as a regional maintenance supervisor earning $12 an hour. The work was steady with 40 hours guaranteed; plus, there was overtime. His efforts, he said, to unionize his coworkers cost him his job.

Davis said it was not only wages that were a problem at McDonald's.

The hours are unpredictable and insufficient, making it impossible for him to plan his finances or time, he said.

215-854-2769 @JaneVonBergen

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