Industry officials counter that the demographics of fast-food workers haven’t substantially changed. Officials at the National Restaurant Association say only 5 percent of restaurant employees earn the federal minimum wage and that 7 of 10 fast-food workers earning an entry-level wage are under the age of 25.
Moreover, the number of strikers is also only a small percentage of the roughly 2.4 million fast-food workers in the United States, opponents say.
Supporters point to a study by the Economic Policy Institute that calculated that 88 percent of workers in jobs paying less than $10 an hour are older than 20, and a third are older than 40, reports USA Today.
At the federal level, President Obama and some members of Congress have pressed for a raise in the minimum wage – but nowhere near the protesters’ demands of $15 an hour. Mr. Obama supports a $9-an-hour minimum wage.
On Thursday, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said the fast-food strikes show the need to raise the minimum wage.
A complicating factor in the fast-food wage fight is that most Mickey-Ds and Burger Kings are franchised, and local owners set wages.
Here is a sampling of voices from protesters across the country:
“Nancy Salgado, 26, of Chicago, earns $8.25 an hour, Illinois' minimum wage, as a McDonald's cashier, though she has worked for the company for 10 years. Ms. Salgado, who has no health benefits, says she relies on Medicaid to provide health care for her two children and often skimps on their clothing purchases,” reports USA Today.