GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Greensboro fast-food workers turned out for the planned 11:30 a.m. strike in which they are calling for $15 an hour wages and better working conditions.
They joined other fast-food workers in 50 cities across the country--including Raleigh and Durham--in a planned one-day nationwide strike.
Fast food-workers want $15 an hour wages and the right to form a union without retaliation or unfair labor practices. That pay increase would amount to a full-time salary of more than $31,000 a year.
A handful of employees from the Taco Bell on Battleground, located behind the sidewalk where the strike line formed, said they received permission from Taco Bell to participate in the strike. Shawn Johnson, a front-line worker at the restaurant and father of four, said store managers asked employees to let them know ahead of time whether they needed off work Thursday.
"We're the heart of the fast food industry," Johnson said. "The companies make millions of dollars. I feel like we're due for some type of increase."
Another worker, Cathy McLean, added, ""I'm a single mother of three. $7.25 is really not enough to survive."
News 2 spoke with the managers of that Taco Bell. They refused to answer questions but admitted they were aware that the strike was occuring. They also said they did have employees working in the restaurant Thursday. News 2 reached out to Taco Bell's corporate office, but they declined to comment.
A spokesperson for McDonald's sent this statement to WFMY News 2, ""The story promoted by the individuals organizing these events does not provide an accurate picture of what it means to work at McDonald's. We respect the strong relationship which exists among McDonald's, our independent operators, and the employees who work in McDonald's restaurants. Our restaurants remain open, with our dedicated employees providing strong service to our customers. McDonald's aims to offer competitive pay and benefits to our employees. We provide training and professional development for all of those who wish to take advantage of those opportunities. Our history is full of examples of individuals who worked their first job with McDonald's and went on to successful careers both within and outside of McDonald's."
A Wendy's spokesperson said, "We are proud to provide a place where thousands of people, who come to us asking for a job, can enter the workforce at a starting wage, gain skills and advance with us or move on to something else. The vast majority of our restaurant employees make higher than the federal minimum wage."
A Burger King spokesperson said, "For decades, BURGER KING® restaurants have provided an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans, including many of the system's franchisees who began their careers working at local BURGER KING® restaurants. Over 99% of all BURGER KING® restaurants in the United States are independently owned and operated by third party franchisees. As a corporation, we respect the rights of all workers; however, Burger King Corp. does not make hiring, firing or other employment-related decisions for our franchisees. Burger King Corp. and its franchisees support and invest in the thousands of restaurant team members across the system. BURGER KING® restaurants offer compensation and benefits that are consistent with the QSR industry. In
addition, through the BURGER KING McLAMORE(SM) Foundation, all BURGER KING® employees and their families are eligible for college scholarships to encourage further growth and education."
According to the Employment Figures and Wages for Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Inc., North Carolina has the second-highest concentration of fast-food jobs in the country--almost $125,000. In 2012, North Carolina's wages averaged $8.56 per hour--$.44 less than the $9 average in the U.S. That's an average annual salary of $17,800.
The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association emailed this statement to WFMY News 2, "While North Carolina's unemployment rate remains one of the nation's highest, the restaurant industry has been an economic bright spot in our state by providing good-paying, reliable jobs. In the last year alone, more than 21,000 jobs were added in this sector in our state-keeping thousands of North Carolina families on solid financial ground and strengthening our state' economy. Nearly 412,000 North Carolinians rely on the steady income and career growth opportunities the restaurant industry provides. Restaurant jobs are great training ground for all careers-providing workers with the resources and opportunities they need for a variety of fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only five percent of restaurant employees in the U.S. earn minimum wage, and a large share of those are teens working part-time jobs. - Lynn Minges, President & CEO, N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association."
The topic has been generating a buzz on News 2's Facebook page. People who commented overwhelmingly expressed opposition to the $15-an-hour wages for fast food workers. Nicole Hopkins wrote, "EMTs don't even make $15 in most agencies, and they save lives!"
Viewer Keith Bean wrote, "$15 dollars an hour is more than we pay our NC teachers...and they are required to have a four-year college degree. Come on, folks."
Viewer Donna Hatcher Allred wrote, "I challenge you to put in an application right now and go first hand and see what these people have to put up with! Short-handed, ill and rude customers--they deserve to be making more than they are!"
Viewer Jon Lewis wrote, "The reason for this strike is to start a national conversation on the subject and make people aware of the problems and work place issues that are happening. Some issues are poor work place conditions and lack of benefits for long-term employees."
If you would like to join in on the conversation, visit the WFMY News 2 Facebook page.