Franchisees push back on planned fast food strikes

An advocacy group for fast food franchises is pushing back on worker strikes planned for Thursday, calling them a play by organized labor to grow their membership ranks 


The fast food worker strikes planned for Thursday will be just the latest round in what has been a two-year campaign to get employees a $15-an-hour wage.

President Obama gave the fast food workers, whose campaign is also being aided by the Service Employees International Union and home-care workers, a boost during his Labor Day speech in Milwaukee on Monday.

But Steve Caldeira, the chief executive of the International Franchise Association, said the protests are little more than an attempt to undermine the owners and operators of local fast food franchises.

Both franchisees and fast food corporations have said that a $15 an hour wage would be much too large a burden, and Caldeira said in a Wednesday statement that the SEIU and other labor groups were putting pressure on the corporations because it makes it easier to organize protests.

“When you boil this all down, it’s really about the unions being hypocritical and greedy by exploiting proposals meant to support fast food workers to enrich themselves,” Caldeira said in a Wednesday statement.

Corporations like McDonald’s have also argued that the ultimate decision on how much workers are paid is up to the local franchises, an argument that Mary Kay Henry, SEIU’s president, has called a “smokescreen.”

“Every detail of food preparation is centralized,” Henry told Bloomberg last year. “With that level of coordination, workers believe that corporations could figure out how to pay them more.”

Thursday’s planned strikes come after roughly 1,300 fast food workers met this summer in the first convention of its kind and agreed to use civil disobedience and other tactics to increase the pressure on their bosses.

On Monday, Obama weighed in on the side of the strikers, after a Democratic push to raise the minimum wage was blocked in the Senate.

Democrats have relied heavily on an economic populist argument during the current midterm campaign, and Obama on Monday praised “a national movement going on made up of fast food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity.” 

“Folks are doing very well on Wall Street. They’re doing very well in the corporate board rooms,” Obama said. Give America a raise. And I think, eventually, Congress is going to hear them. We’ll break those folks down.”