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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fast-food and retail workers in eight cities who have already staged walkouts this year are now calling for a national strike day on Aug. 29. The employees, who have held single-day walkouts in cities such as New York, St. Louis and Detroit, are backed by community groups and national unions and say they have received pledges of support from workers in dozens of cities across the United States, according to a Washington Post report.
The protesting workers are calling for a wage of $15 per hour and the right to form a union. The current median hourly wage for cashiers, cooks and crew members at fast-food restaurants is $8.94, according to walkout organizers.
The Aug. 29 walkout would take place in the immediate aftermath of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and just prior to Labor Day. Thousands of workers in more than 35 cities are expected to participate, organizers told the news outlet.
Although previous strikes have not led to sweeping changes, some workers reported small raises and improved hours in their aftermath.
"The top executives in these companies make huge salaries and the corporations make record profits every year," said Terrance Wise of Kansas City, Mo., an eight-year employee at Burger King with a second job at Pizza Hut. "How about them cutting a little off the top? CEOs are taking home millions [while] many workers are struggling." Wise said he has participated in one walkout and helped to sign up scores of workers who plan to join the nationwide protest. Retail workers from stores such as Macy's, Dollar Tree and Sears are also expected to join the fast-food workers in the Aug. 29 strike.
"I have been watching on TV and I have seen a lot of people forming around the country, striking for better wages and to have their voices heard. I think it is high time that I did something," said KFC worker Willietta Dukes. "I work hard. I don't sit around. I am good at what I do. Yet after working all day, I do not earn enough to even pay for the basics. I don't want to be in poverty forever."
The Service Employees International Union, along with other labor groups and some local religious groups, have supported the protest movement and argued that many fast-food and low-paid retail workers must rely on government aid programs even as the companies they work for take in hundreds of millions in revenue. Additionally, they say most fast-food workers are adults who must support themselves and their families.
Fast-food industry representatives have countered by stating that these jobs serve as a gateway into the workforce and often lead to better-paying jobs. Additionally, they state that fast-food restaurants and retailers often operate on extremely thin profit margins, and a minimum wage of $15 per hour would drive them out of business.