Employees of a variety of fast food outlets in Madison will be going on strike Thursday to protest low pay, according to Wisconsin Jobs Now, a union-backed workers rights group based in Milwaukee.

The organization claims workers at McDonald's, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts and Taco Bell will be walking off the job as part of a national campaign to raise wages for fast food workers, who typically are poorly paid and receive little to no benefits.

Fast food employees have walked out in a number of high-profile demonstrations around the country, beginning earlier this year in New York City and later spreading to other cities, including Milwaukee.

Wisconsin Jobs Now put me in touch with Meghan Ford, a 22-year-old employee of Dunkin' Donuts on South Park St., who is scheduled to work the morning shift Thursday but will instead be picketing in front of the shop with two of her coworkers. She says the majority of her coworkers declined to participate, fearing retaliation from management.

Ford says the immediate goal is not necessarily the formation of a union. Right now, she says, she wants management to see that workers have grievances that they want to discuss.

"I'm hoping I'll be seen more not just as an employee but somebody who should be listened to," she says. "The relationship between management and the worker is structured so that the worker is going to be a little timid. I hope that managers understand that situation, that I'm stepping up right now, and that I have a voice and an opinion."

Ford currently makes $8.25 an hour at Dunkin' Donuts, and says that raises are few and far between. One of her coworkers told her that after a year on the job she could get a 25-cent raise.

Equally frustrating, she says, is that employees are not able to keep the money that customers put in what looks very much like a tip jar on the counter. Instead, management collects the money and buys small prizes, such as gift cards, to distribute to well-performing employees.

Ford does not fit the profile of a lifelong fast food worker. She recently graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in political science and sociology and has been active in progressive politics, including the Green Party, for several years. Madison's activist tradition is part of why the Appleton native chose to attend college here.

She says she recognizes that her coworkers, some of whom have fewer career opportunities as well as families to feed, face a much greater risk in walking off the job than she does.

"At first I felt guilty because if I get fired from this job, I don't have children and they have people to look out for," she says. "But then I was thinking, that's the perfect reason for me to do this. It would be the best for me to get hit (rather than somebody else)."

A person who identified herself as a shift leader at Dunkin' Donuts said Wednesday she was aware of the strike taking place but declined to comment. She also said the manager was not available.

The protest at Dunkin' Donuts will take place at 6 a.m. at 801 S. Park St. Later in the day, at 4:30 p.m., the workers and their supporters will hold a rally on the State Street side of Library Mall. U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, along with Mayor Paul Soglin and the Rev. Ellen Rasmussen will speak in support of the cause.

 

Jack Craver is the Capital Times political reporter, focusing on elections, candidates and campaign finance.

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(54) comments

aspyder

What these people don’t realize is they are being used. Union membership has been dropping and the positions of the upper echelon of the unions are being threatened. In order to keep their jobs they need new members, any members will do. It’s the dues they are after. Promises will be made and things said that they (union) know will be undeliverable BUT once they join the union its too late.

My eldest grandson worked part time at a union grocer in Racine. He said that after paying union dues he had so little let it didn’t justify the job. He went to work elsewhere for a little less per hour but more take home pay ultimately.

HockeyTeam

Union members can set their own dues and by-laws. Geez. Perhaps it is the failure of the school system or just the raw amount of digestible compounds in today's food that workers can't critically think enough to realize they can have all the bargaining leverage of unions without any of the overhead.

JoeBlow
JoeBlow

" they can have all the bargaining leverage of unions without any of the overhead."

Please give us an example where this is happening today.

What's the problem with letting the actual person doing the work decide if he/she wants to join the union? They join, great. They don't join, great. If the union benefit is worth the added cost to the worker, then unions will survive just fine. Let the free market decide. But don't force everyone to join or lose a job opportunity. Are you on the side of the worker or the union?

HockeyTeam

You have to remember that UNIONS were originally developed by WORKERS to fight for fair and safe conditions in the workplace. They weren't developed by some outside force and then workers were horded in to them.

ANY group has a right (in most places) to form a union. They DO NOT have to join a pre-existing union. In pre-existing unions, the fees and by-laws are set by the union members. If they don't like them just vote them out. It literally is that simple.

The advantage of an Union in any form is it is the only balance to the natural (albeit sad) market force of employers marginalizing employees and cost-cutting. Only when you have a balance of the two can you create a robust middle class which in turn fuels the strongest capitalist economies.

Unions are only as corrupt and bloated as the membership allows them to be. If a group thinks the fees are to much they can either get together and go over what their money is buying, and vote out anything they believe they don't need.

In this day in age, you will need to pay for a lobby, lawyers, some form of administration for organizational needs and perhaps some type of funding for striking if need be. Why do you need that stuff? Because right now the employers are doing those things to get favorable laws in their favor.

aspyder

@HockeyTeam
"If they don't like them just vote them out. It literally is that simple."

Have you ever tried to decertify a union? Like getting a union in, it isn't that easy to get one out. But you're right all you have to do is get the majority to vote them out AFTER you petition the NLRB to decertify the union and THEY allow the vote to be taken.

tomtom33
tomtom33

HockeyTeam - 6 hours ago
You have to remember that UNIONS were originally developed by WORKERS to fight for fair and safe conditions in the workplace.
-------------------------------
Unions were originally developed by organized crime in many cases. And organized crime didn't care one whit about the workers. Many companies have very contented workers and no union.

aspyder

@HockeyTeam
Yep, LOCALS can often set their own dues BUT the International (or National) union gets what THEY want. Even then, some unions, like the UAW, charge 2 hours wages as dues, period.

HockeyTeam

This is capitalism at it's best. Workers think they are worth more in a service related industry great! Let them negotiate. If the management does not think so they can try to find others that will work at that rate.

What would be the ramifications? Higher wagers? 15-20 dollars an hour and benefits? That would mean less people on Welfare and Medicaid, and more consumers for other goods and services.

Perhaps the collapse of the entire fast food industry? Great! People will be forced to eat REAL food which means dramatically lowering chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc... an increase in the core economy due to demand for produce, livestock, and grocery stores, shifting subsides from unhealthy drains and oils to healthy vegetables and fruits now there is no Fast Food lobby.

AllAmerican11B
AllAmerican11B

I say give them their $15.00 per hour, then raise the base price of every single item in every single store to cover the increased hourly wages and be done with it. The consumers will make their own individual choice as to where they spend their dollars based on their perceived value of the meal. If the fast food customer base decreases, then they should just keep on raising the price to the consumer; after-all, consumers are paying for the convenience of fast food; if they demand instant gratification, then they should pay for instant gratification.

Personally; I choose quality of food over speed of delivery unless I am in a serious time crunch, but honestly I plan ahead better than that. A burger and fries delivered to me in 90 seconds in plastic and/or paper wrappers is almost repulsive anymore. I haven't eaten at any of the fast food burger joints in years, I have more respect for my body than that.

ACLerok

People certainly deserve to make a living wage and I support their fight to do so, but I hope these people are prepared for the can of worms they'd open should they succeed. If you could suddenly make, for example, $15/hr, healthcare, etc. just to flip burgers then these jobs start looking a lot more attractive to skilled workers that are currently a step above these lower-skilled employees.

I know there are already fast food workers that are over-skilled, like the article shows, but they are not the majority. What is that majority going to do for work when they can no longer compete with the new crop of skilled workers that would love reasonable pay for relatively easy work?

Like I said, nothing wrong with fighting for fair pay, but in this case I would think that directing that energy towards developing a new skill might get you a bit further.

idunoe

I love the fact that the only conversation here is that of money. Ok, those of you that are saying that the minimum wage should only be whatever low amount due to the rate of inflation, how about CEOs. They seem to be matching the rate of productivity rather than the CPI. This young woman also talks about being heard about the working conditions. I can allow that, as usually managers at fast food places are not very experienced or trained in good personnel decisions. They are more apt to be focusing the simple monetary numbers, not the causes that effect them. As a manager, I am not to dole out raises every time that an employee wants them, but I still have to motivate on a daily basis.

Lynne4300

Maybe Meghan can move up to a higher paying career, considering her education ......Pizza Hut?

ArchieBunkersKidBrother
ArchieBunkersKidBrother

A little college envy, I see. You probably work for the drop out Walker.

ginrummy

What I'd like to see is companies going on strike for a week. All companies. Some people continually complain about companies and how bad they are lets see how we do without them. Everyone in the private sector gets a week of unpaid vacation. No private transportation services such as taxis or airlines. No deliveries to grocery stores, wait, grocery stores will be closed anyway. No private delivery services. No manufacturing of items that may be needed immediately such as fire hoses for forest fires. The list goes on and on. Let's just see how we do without all the evil companies.

PapaLorax

sounds good - a bunch on enterprising people will do really well for themselves during that time!

ginrummy

I wouldn't fire the worker skipping off their job today unless their work contract states that unexcused absence is cause for immediate termination. I believe quite a few companies have a three strike rule where the worker can get three strikes before termination. This would be one of them.

Personally, I could care less if they got paid $15/hr. I rarely eat at fast food restaurants so the price hike won't affect me. However, if the "poor' people start complaining that they can no longer afford to eat their big macs and the government steps in to take more money from me to give to them then that does affect me. So, hike minimum wage just as long as it doesn't correlate to a hike in taxes to give to the "poor".

twm

Maybe you union proponents should get together, open a greasy spoon, let your employees unionize and give them the pay and benefits the union tells you to. You’d be out of business before you even had a chance to open. To repeat what others have said, these jobs are for high-school/college students. A 24 year-old with 3 kids working a dishwasher job at McDonald's should not be paid more than a 16 year-old strictly because they have more expenses. People who take these jobs due to layoffs do so temporarily and are also supplemented with unemployment compensation.

Unions are a business and members are their customers. Like any other business, it’s in their best interest to serve their customers, but when push came to shove they’ll do what they have to in order to save their own hides. They should be called “onions” because in the end they only make their members cry.

Anyone who wastes 4+ years getting a worthless degree that has no career path deserves no sympathy for being scammed out of tons of money.

monotone

I actually feel for the workers who are being manipulated by these union groups into thinking there is a chance of everyone making $15 an hour. They are pawns to these unions and are ultimately hurting themselves.

Nav

These worker are not only asking for higher wages but, equally important, the right to UNIONIZE! They know that only Unions look after the rights of the workers.

ginrummy

No, they know only unions will give them the security to do an average or below average job and not be subject to termination. The unions will also give them the right to keep getting wage increases even if their performance doesn't warrant it.

PapaLorax

sorry - how do they not have the right to unionize?

pete
pete

Navasaurus Rex strikes again!!! The dinosaur that believes the unions are the answer to all of our problems

whiteflight

What a joke. Remember Hostess?

JoeBlow
JoeBlow

From the article: "She recently graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in political science and sociology and has been active in progressive politics, including the Green Party, for several years. Madison's activist tradition is part of why the Appleton native chose to attend college here. ...Ford currently makes $8.25 an hour at Dunkin' Donuts"

Parents, if you love your sons and daughters, you will share this with your high schoolers.

nighthawk

Amen! Ms. Ford, maybe try a more useful degree choice next time.

Argyle
Argyle

If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation it would be over $11 per hour today.
If the minimum wage had kept up with growth in worker productivity it would be over $20 per hour today. That growth in worker productivity is all the money that is flowing into the already full coffers of the very, very rich.
Every worker deserves to make a living wage.

JoeBlow
JoeBlow

Please cite your sources for this claim.
And while you're at it, debunk the fact that rising minimum wages destroy jobs for the poorest workers in America.

Davisra

And no one could afford to splurge on fast food, necessitating the closure of fast food restaurants. Closed restaurants = no more jobs.

tomtom33
tomtom33

The minimum wage in Jan. of 1974 was $1.60. Using the inflation calculator at http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi, that would come to $7.35 today.

ArchieBunkersKidBrother
ArchieBunkersKidBrother

You aren't factoring in the relative productivity of those workers, either. C'mon - I know you're a conservative shill, but at least be an honest one.

tomtom33
tomtom33

I just did another calculation. The first minimum wage wage $.25 per hour as established by the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. That comes to $4.02 in 2012.

Comment deleted.
tomtom33
tomtom33

Here was the claim, "If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation it would be over $11 per hour today." That claim is wrong. How about the price of tea in China?

PapaLorax

@happydays pocan has a unionized print shop yes.

It isn't their skills they have... It's the skills of the job that sets the wage. I have no problem with this happening... If they are worth it the business will pay.

Badger08

Actually they are entitled to seek out additional skills to better themselves and move into different jobs with more pay. I could complain about my salary as well, but based on my education and skill set, it is appropriate. If I want more, I need to further both my education and skill set. It is called personal responsibility and desire. The population needs to realize they are not owed anything, and need to create their own destiny.

ktruth

If they don't like their job, get a job somewhere else. No one is forcing anyone to work at a specific place. Somewhat a free country yet.
I would fire everyone that did not show up. In this Obama economy they should feel lucky to have a job.

Norwood44

This is a strike I can get behind. Everyone talks about the loss of our manufacturing economy, but we manufacture a lot of fast food. This will be good for our economy and good for these workers. They should get an elevated hourly wage, health care and pension. And if that makes cheeseburgers and tacos cost more, that's also good for America. No better way to pump vitality into our economy.

JoeBlow
JoeBlow

"They should get an elevated hourly wage, health care and pension. And if that makes cheeseburgers and tacos cost more, that's also good for America. No better way to pump vitality into our economy."

You neglected the biggest effect..... less fast food to be consumed by an obese population, because it will become too expensive for average Americans.

But Seriously! It is a sad commentary that as the Middle East implodes, the "recession" enters it's 6th year, the national deficit hits $17 trillion, unemployed/underemployed Americans hit record highs, welfare pays better than working, the education establishment is in tatters and ObamaCare is a complete joke with endless delays and unlimited exemptions... the majority of stories and posts on Mad.com are concerned with singers in the capitol and now minimum wages. Pretty pathetic. I need a refill.

bookman21
bookman21

We've all been hearing from the Ayn Rand crowd about makers and takers for too long already. The fast food workers are trying to be makers. They work long and hard. Aren't they entitled to make enough to support themselves?

marlori

agreed bookman.

JoeBlow
JoeBlow

Suggestion: Give them a generous tip. In line with your concept of a living wage? Maybe you could double their pay scale with your generosity? Or are you only interested in spending other peoples money?

twm

You made your own pile and stepped in it there, bookie. “Aren't they ENTITLED to make enough to support themselves?” Are you serious? If they work hard, take charge of their lives, and work their way up to managers then they will make a living wage. My 11-year old nephew works hard cutting lawns and shoveling snow but he can’t support himself. Join reality, willya!!

happydays

Hate to burst anyone's bubble - but fast food employees don't have the skill set to pay them any more than they now make. And it not a job designed to support a family If you want a better paying job - get a skill. If all you do is flip burgers and take orders - what do you think you are worth to an employer? Those are jobs for students

Gemini1997
Gemini1997

Some fast food workers have Master's Degrees and cannot find work. Skills do not dictate where a person works. Happydays - I hope you land in the position someday where you have to work outside the "skill" you have. The ones that serve you at fast food restaurants do have a skill, they put up with people like you.

JoeBlow
JoeBlow

If they have a Master's and can only find work at Taco Bell, maybe they should sue their university / college for a tuition refund.

happydays

Then you got your masters in the wrong field Just because you have a masters degree does not entitle you to the pay you think you deserve. I can tell you didn't get that masters in Business

happydays

are you saying that there should be a graduated pay schedule? people who only have a HS degree should make less that someone with a Masters Degree for flipping burgers?

Gemini1997
Gemini1997

Sorry happydays - no Master's Degree here - that was just an example of the type of worker that may end up at a fast food restaurant if there were no other jobs. You totally missed the point. The point is that corporate America is reaping the benefits of low wages, no benefits, etc., that these workers are making for them. No degree in Business Administration but just a compassion for the individuals who need to be paid more. Take a course in reading comprehension and quit reading things into a comment that are not there.

Argyle
Argyle

How does your tongue taste after all that boot licking?

happydays

Did Pocan's business have union employees?

happydays

How much is Ian's Pizza paying their workers and have they unionized them yet????

happydays

If your skills don't qualify you for a better job - that is not the restaurants fault - it is yours. Fast food work was never a job to raise a family - they were for students and those who wanted a part time job to make a little extra money. Get over yourselves, get some skills and don't expect others to pay you more than you are worth - yes - I said it - if you only have skills to take orders and flip burgers - you are not worth more pay Grow up - start your own business

pete
pete

well ms ford, if you have a degree from Madison and the only job you can get is Dunkin Donuts then maybe a mirror is in order. Let me guess, first time you've ever had a job?

wrkrbee1
wrkrbee1

Fire em. Bunch of students just got back, they'll take the job...

Queen123

Good for them!!!

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