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Detroit fast food workers on strike, demanding higher wages

McDonald's hopes to hire thousands of new workers.
Miguel Vaca
McDonald's hopes to hire thousands of new workers.

Many Detroit fast food workers are on strike today. Workers from restaurants across the city walked off the job at 6 a.m. this morning.

Organizers of the strike expect workers from 60 restaurants to participate. These include McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Little Caesar’s, Burger King, and Popeye’s.

According to the Associated Press and Detroit pastor, Charles Williams II, workers want $15 an hour, better working conditions, and the right to unionize. The strike’s organizers claim that most fast food workers currently make $7.40 an hour, which is minimum wage in Michigan.

The Detroit News has interviewed workers involved in the strike. Claudette Wilson, Detroit resident and an employee at a Burger King on Eight Mile, said:

"I make $7.40 an hour, the same as when I started working in the fast food industry three years ago. We're the fastest-growing job market in the country with the lowest pay."

Rev. W.J. Rideout III said, “They can’t make it on $7.40 an hour.  They can’t raise a family and pay their bills on those kinds of wages. The wages are too low to survive.”

Today’s protest was organized in part by Service Employees International Union. 

Similar strikes have taken place St. Louis, New York, and Chicago.

According to Josh Eidelson of The Nation, Detroit’s strike could be the largest fast food work stoppage yet, topping last month’s strike in New York. He reports:

Fast food jobs are a growing portion of our economy, and fast food-like conditions are proliferating in other sectors as well. Organizers say the fast food industry now employs twice as many Detroit-area workers as the city’s iconic auto industry.

These strikes come at a pivotal time. Michigan is one of the most recent “Right to Work” states despite the state’s long history as a union stronghold.

According to the Detroit News, the workers have planned a rally on Belle Isle at 1 p.m. and a rally at the Detroit Federation of Teachers at 4 p.m.

-Julia Field, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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