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NEW YORK – Fast-food employees in nearly 100 cities plan to strike Thursday, Dec. 5, in what will be their largest effort to date to gain higher pay, according to organizers. Mass demonstrations are planned in an additional 100 cities, the Associated Press reported.
Since a year ago, labor unions, worker advocacy groups and other organizations have been building a campaign to highlight the difficulties of living on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour -- or approximately $15,000 per year for a full-time employee. Protestors have called for a federal minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, although some refer to that figure as a rallying point rather than a near-term possibility, the AP report noted.
The last major fast-food employee walkout occurred in August when protests took place in 60 U.S. cities.
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) said these demonstrations are a "campaign engineered by national labor groups" and claimed most participants are union protestors, not fast-food employees. The NRA added that previous protests "have fallen well short of their purported numbers."
Kendall Fells, organizer for the New York City-based advocacy group Fast Food Forward, told the AP that plans for this latest protest began soon after the August walkouts. "[Workers] understand they're not going to win from a one-day strike," Fells said.
President Obama stated in November that he would support a Senate measure to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) promised a vote on the matter by the end of the year, but a wage hike is not expected to gain support in the House of Representatives.
Efforts have been more successful on the local and state levels. New Jersey voters approved a $1 minimum-wage increase to $8 per hour last month. California, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island also upped their minimum wages this year.
"I think we've totally changed the conversation about what these jobs are worth," said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union. "These are no longer jobs being done by teenagers who need extra money. These are jobs being done by adults that can't find any other work."
Henry said she expects the number of cities and workers participating in the protests to further increase next year.