Fast-food workers and labor organizers marched, waved signs and chanted in cities across the country on Thursday in a push for higher wages.

1

Organizers say employees planned to forgo work in 100 cities, with rallies set for another 100 cities. But by late afternoon, it was unclear what the actual turnout was or how many of the participants were workers. At targeted restaurants, the disruptions seemed minimal or temporary.

The protests are part of an effort that began about a year ago and is spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union, which has spent millions to bankroll local worker groups and organize publicity for the demonstrations. Protesters are calling for pay of $15 an hour, but the figure is seen more as a rallying point than a near-term possibility.

2

At a time when there’s growing national and international attention on economic disparities, advocacy groups and Democrats are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25. That comes to about $15,000 a year for full-time work.

On Thursday, crowds gathered outside restaurants in cities including Boston, Lakewood, Calif., Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C., where protesters walked into a Burger King but didn’t stop customers from getting their food.

3

In Detroit, about 50 demonstrators turned out for a pre-dawn rally in front of a McDonald’s. A few employees said they weren’t working but a manager and other employees kept the restaurant open.

Julius Waters, a 29-year-old McDonald’s maintenance worker who was among the protesters, said it’s hard making ends meet on his wage of $7.40 an hour.

4

“I need a better wage for myself, because, right now, I’m relying on aid, and $7.40 is not able to help me maintain taking care of my son. I’m a single parent,” Waters said.

5

In New York City, about 100 protesters blew whistles and beat drums while marching into a McDonald’s at around 6:30 a.m.; one startled customer grabbed his food and fled as they flooded the restaurant, while another didn’t look up from eating and reading amid their chants of “We can’t survive on $7.25!”

6

Community leaders took turns giving speeches for about 15 minutes until police arrived and ordered protesters out of the store. The crowd continued to demonstrate outside for about 45 minutes.

Later in the day, about 50 protesters rallied outside a Wendy’s in Brooklyn. Channon Wetstone, a 44-year-old attorney ended up going to a nearby Burger King because of the protests.

7

She said that fast-food employees work very hard. When asked if she’d be willing to pay more for food so they could earn more, she said it would depend on what she was ordering.

“I would say 50 cents, 75 cents more,” Wetstone said.

8

The push for higher pay in fast food faces an uphill battle. The industry competes aggressively on being able to offer low-cost meals and companies have warned that they would need to raise prices if wages were hiked.

9

Fast-food workers have also historically been seen as difficult to unionize, given the industry’s high turnover rates. But the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million workers in health care, janitorial and other industries, has helped put their wages in the spotlight.

Berlin Rosen, a political consulting and public relations firm based in New York City, is coordinating communications efforts and connecting organizers with media outlets. The firm says its clients are the coalitions in each city, such as Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15. Those groups were established with the help of the SEIU, which is also listed on Berlin Rosen’s website as a client.

Fast Food Protest

The National Restaurant Association, an industry lobbying group, said most protesters were union workers and that “relatively few” restaurant employees have participated in past actions. It called the demonstrations a “campaign engineered by national labor groups.”

McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, said in statements that their restaurants create work opportunities and provide training and the ability to advance. Burger King reissued its statement on past protests, saying its restaurants have provided an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans.

11

In the meantime, the protests are getting some high-powered support from the White House. In an economic policy speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama mentioned fast-food and retail workers “who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty” in his call for raising the federal minimum wage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised a vote on the wage hike by the end of the year. But the measure is not expected to gain traction in the House, where Republican leaders oppose it.

Fast Food Strike

Supporters of wage hikes have been more successful at the state and local level. California, Connecticut and Rhode Island raised their minimum wages this year. Last month, voters in New Jersey approved an increase in the minimum to $8.25 an hour, up from $7.25 an hour.

___

AP  |  By By CANDICE CHOI and SAM HANANELPosted: 12/05/2013

AP Writer Mike Householder contributed from Detroit, AP videographer Johnny Clark contributed from Atlanta and AP Video Journalist Ted Shaffrey contributed from New York, AP Writer Mitch Weiss from Charlotte, N.C.

Folks ages 29 to 37 have watched their net worth plummet over the past few decades, and there are several reasons.

Even after a damaging economic crisis and recession, some American households are recovering nicely. If you’re 47 years old or older, you’ve actually done pretty well in the past few decades.
But younger generations are just getting poorer, according to a new study from the Urban Institute. People younger than 47 just haven’t been able to accumulate much money or build up their net worth through homebuying or other investments.
The authors looked at how Americans’ average net worth has changed from 1983 through 2010 and found a dramatic difference between older and younger generations.
Those 56 to 64 and those older than 74 more than doubled their net worth, with gains of 120% and 149%, respectively. The picture was still rosy for those 47 to 55 and 65 to 73, with a rise in net worth of 76% and 79%.
But all that progress comes to a halt with younger generations. Those 38 to 46 saw their net worth rise by just 26%, and those 29 to 37 saw their net worth drop by 21%.
Why are young people getting left behind? One of the study’s authors, Gene Steuerle, says there are several factors:
The housing bubble. Younger homeowners were more likely to have the steepest mortgage balances and the least home equity built up. Consider a home that fell in value by 20%, Steuerle writes. A younger owner with only 20% equity would see a 100% drop in housing net worth, but an older owner with the mortgage paid off would see only a 20% drop.
The stock market. Older investors were more likely to invest in bonds and other assets that have recovered or gone up in value since the Great Recession.
Lower employment. Younger Americans are seeing higher unemployment rates. They’re also seeing lower relative minimum wages.
Less savings. Younger people are seeing a bigger cut of their pay taken out to pay for Social Security and health care.
“Maybe, more than just maybe, it’s time to think about investing in the young,” Steuerle writes.

By Kim Peterson