Thousands Of Fast Food Workers Walk Off The Job In 60 Cities

Dan Fastenberg
<b class="credit">Mariya Pylayev/AOL</b>Protesters in New York's Union Square
Mariya Pylayev/AOLProtesters in New York's Union Square

Thousands of fast food workers reportedly walked off the job in about 60 cities Thursday to call for a doubling of the minimum wage to $15. The protests mark the largest day of action by fast food workers in the history of the industry, protest organizers told AOL Jobs. The federalminimum wagecurrently stands at $7.25 an hour, and many industry workers earn salaries close to that figure. (The median wage for front-line fast-food workers is $8.94 per hour, according to the National Employment Law Project, the progressive advocacy group for low-wage workers.) The federal government hasn't changed the minimum wage since July 2009, when the figure was pegged at $6.55 an hour. Workers are also asking for increased full-time job opportunities.

The fast food workers were joined by other low-wage workers from retail giants like Macy's. So far, 15 separate branches of restaurant chains -- including Burger King, Taco Bell and Wendy's -- have been forced to close for the day as a result of their workers walking off their jobs. The protests are being organized by local alliances of labor, clergy and community groups with support from the Service Employees International Union. No arrests have yet been made, according to organizers, but protests earlier this year (such as one in Seattle) did result in arrests.

"Today, our call for $15 an hour and a union was heard across the country," Devonte Yates, a McDonald's worker from Milwaukee, said in a press release. "If the fast-food industry doesn't want our movement to spread any further, it should pay us enough so that we can support ourselves and our families."

The nationwide protest was intentionally scheduled to fall on the day after the 50th anniversary of the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. The historic 1963 march also called for an increase of the minimum wage. Back then demonstrators called for the minimum wage to increase to $2 an hour, the equivalent of $15.26 today.