ATLANTA — A group of fast food workers in Atlanta has walked off the job to push for better wages.
Atlanta Jobs with Justice Officials say employees at several chain restaurants in the city left work Thursday to push for unionization and hourly pay of $15.
Organizers say Atlanta is home to more than 77,000 fast food workers who earn median wages of about $8.50 to $10.70.
Organizers say the walk-out is inspired by seven similar strikes across the country that took place earlier this summer. Organizers have said local clergy, elected officials and community supporters were expected to join the strike.
Demonstrations were planned at the Five Points MARTA station in downtown Atlanta, and at a McDonald’s and Church’s Chicken in southeast Atlanta.
Jobs in low-wage industries have led the economic recovery. Advocates for a higher minimum wage say that makes it crucial that they pay enough for workers who support families.
The restaurant industry says it already operates on thin margins and insists that sharply higher wages would lead to steeper prices for customers and fewer opportunities for job seekers.
The drive for better pay comes as the White House, some members of Congress and economists seek to raise the federal minimum wage. But most proposals are for a more modest increase, with President Barack Obama suggesting $9 an hour.
The Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million workers in health care, janitorial and other industries, has been providing financial support and training for local organizers in the fast-food strikes around the country.
Walkouts were also planned Thursday in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Seattle, St. Louis, Hartford, Conn., Memphis, Tenn., and other cities. Organizers said they expected thousands of workers and their allies to turn out, but the number of actual participants was unclear.
The lack of public awareness illustrates the challenge workers face in building wider support. Workers participating in the strikes represent a tiny fraction of the industry. And fast-food jobs are known for their high turnover rates and relatively young workers.