SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

March 19, 2014

Fast-food protests shift focus to 'wage theft'

NEW YORK — Organizers of the fast-food protests for higher pay yesterday shifted their attention to another issue: “wage theft.”

Protesters planned to rally outside McDonald’s restaurants in cities including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami to call attention to the denial of overtime pay and other violations they say deprive workers of the money they’re owed.

McDonald’s Corp. said in a statement that its restaurants remain open “today — and every day — thanks to the teams of dedicated employees serving our customers.””

The actions are part of an ongoing campaign by union organizers to build public support for pay of $15 an hour. The Service Employees International Union has been providing financial and organizational backing for the push, which began in late 2012. Since then, a series of protests around the country has captured national media attention and served as a backdrop for President Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage.

Yesterday, organizers said rallies were planned for about 30 cities, but the size of the turnout wasn’t clear. In New York, roughly 50 protesters streamed into a McDonald’s across the street from the Empire State Building, surprising customers. They chanted for a few minutes before being kicked out by police.

Once back outside, members of the group took turns speaking before a large gathering of TV cameras and other media. New York City public advocate Letitia James voiced her support while standing next to a protester dressed as Ronald McDonald in handcuffs.

“It’s hard enough for fast-food workers to survive in this economy,” James said. She is planning to introduce legislation to establish a hotline to report “wage theft.”

It was a far smaller showing than other recent protests in New York City, and it wasn’t clear how many participants were fast-food workers, rather than campaign organizers, supporters or members of the public relations firm that has been coordinating media efforts. Still, the latest rallies reflect the push by labor groups to keep continued pressure on the issue of worker pay.

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