American fast-food workers from chains like McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut will strike this Thursday. The walkout is set to be the biggest protest yet as workers battle low wages and poor benefits.
The move is the latest in a series of confrontations and lawsuits that have heated up between fast-food companies and their workers, especially as more and more of the labor force works in fast food. In 2013, 3.6 million Americans worked for fast-food chains — with 76 percent of them working in franchises, not in high-paying corporate positions, according to the Guardian.
The protests are being coordinated by local groups and national organizers like Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15, which are calling for a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
Dana Wittman, 38, is planning to strike on Thursday, and she works for Pizza Hut for $9 an hour, she told the Guardian. She just received a raise from $7.25 an hour when she was promoted to shift leader, and took on responsibilities like organizing deliveries, paperwork and cleaning up after the closing of the restaurant at night, sometimes as late as 2 a.m.
Still, she relies on government subsidies, a common complaint among fast-food workers, and last month her electricity was cut off when she couldn't pay the bill.
“The company should pay me more. I am worth more,” she told the Guardian. “They make billions a year and I don’t even get health insurance. The CEO gets health insurance."
There is speculation that Thursday's strikes may escalate. Many workers who attended the first-ever Fight for 15 convention in July expressed willingness to do "whatever it takes" to raise wages, perhaps including civil disobedience.
In a statement, Terrence Wise, a Burger King employee in Missouri and a member of the Fight for 15 national organizing committee, cited a resolution from the convention including "non-violent," peaceful protests," but also said that protesters were "prepared to take arrests to show our commitment."
The announcement for the new strike came on the heels of President Obama's Labor Day address, in which he referred to the fight of fast-food workers.
“All across the country right now, there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity,” he said.
Andrew McConnell, a McDonald's employee from Kansas City, told MSNBC that he expected the strike to be a "positive experience" that will "uplift" workers who are just joining the movement.
McConnell supports five children on his pay from McDonald's, which is $7.45 an hour, and money he makes on the side by selling Avon and LegalShield products into the wee hours of the night.
"There’s never a time I’m not working outside of McDonald’s to make ends meet,” he told MSNBC. “The check is never enough; $7.45 is never enough.”