Fast-food walkout: McDonald's employees push for higher wages

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ATLANTA - Employees at an Atlanta McDonald’s walked out early Thursday morning as part of a nationwide strike.

Organizers said employees in 50 cities across the country are calling for $15 an hour and the right to unionize.

Atlanta Jobs With Justice said there are 77,248 fast-food workers in Atlanta earning a median wage of $8.59 an hour. The organization said that’s more than $10 less per hour than an adult with one child needs to meet basic needs.

A walkout is also planned later Thursday morning at the Church's Chicken on Moreland Avenue.

Thursday's planned walkouts follow a series of strikes that began last November in New York City, then spread to cities including Chicago, Detroit and Seattle. Workers say they want $15 an hour, which would be about $31,000 a year for full-time employees. That's more than double the federal minimum wage, which many fast food workers make, of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year.

McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. say that they don't make decisions about pay for the independent franchisees that operate the majority of their U.S. restaurants.

For the restaurants it does own, McDonald's said in a statement that pay starts at minimum wage but the range goes higher, depending on the employee's position and experience level. It said that raising entry-level wages would mean higher overall costs, which could result in higher prices on menus.

"That would potentially have a negative impact on employment and business growth in our restaurants, as well as value for our customers," the company said in a statement.

The Wendy's Co. and Yum Brands Inc., which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, did not respond to a request for comment.

The National Restaurant Association says the low wages reflect the fact that most fast-food workers tend to be younger and have little work experience. Scott DeFife, a spokesman for the group, says that doubling wages would hurt job creation, noting that fast-food chains are already facing higher costs for ingredients, as well as new regulations that will require them to pay more in health care costs.