Although a massive protest was scheduled by fast-food industry workers in New York City on Thursday, only about a few hundred turned out to stand up for better wages and opportunity.
Workers from popular fast-food chains such as McDonald's, Burger King and KFC descended on Times Square demanding that they be allowed to unionize in order to secure themselves a living wage higher than the current minimum wage of $7.25.
"It's a long fight. We have to stick together if we're going to have a chance," Joseph Barrera, 22, one of the protesters who has worked at a Brooklyn KFC restaurant for the past 10 months, told the New York Daily News.
There are around 50,000 fast-food workers in New York City who earn $10,000 to $18,000 per year, with many having to work second and third jobs just to make ends meet. Folks in New York City are under greater pressure given that fact that the city is known for being one of the most expensive to live in the country, according to Jonathan Westin, executive director of protest sponsor New York Communities for Change.
The group is looking for employers to increase the pay of its employees to $15 an hour. The current average pay for a fast-food worker in the city is around $9 an hour. At the current wage, a full-time employee's annual pay amount would still be less than the Census Bureau's poverty income threshold level of $23,000 for a family of four.
However, labor experts have been defending the current wage while insisting that raising wages would adversely affect the franchisees economically and prevent them from hiring in the future.
"Any additional labor cost can negatively impact a restaurant's ability to hire or maintain jobs," Scott DeFife, executive vice president of policy and government affairs at the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement.