Fast-food labor organizers in Kansas City and around the country intend to expand the scope of their campaign for $15 an hour and unionization on April 15.
One difference from previous rallies will be that this day of action will include protests on 170 college campuses.
The efforts on Tuesday drew support from Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, who used part of his State of the City address to talk about a Wendy’s fast-food worker.
Workers like her are expected “to provide for themselves and their families on $7.65 an hour,” the mayor said. “That doesn’t add up. Workers like LaToya Caldwell deserve better.”
James complimented the “change makers” of Stand Up KC, saying: “No one in this country should work 40 hours a week and still have to raise their children in poverty.”
Rally organizers around the country said they expect fast-food workers and their supporters to be joined by home health care aides, child care workers, Wal-Mart employees and university workers.
The protests continue a campaign that began in late 2012. The Kansas City rally, the sixth march and protest in the area, is scheduled to begin at Theis Park, at Oak Street and Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard, on April 15. Additional details are not yet available.
The national push is spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union and has included demonstrations around the country to build public support for raising pay for fast-food and other low-wage workers.
Turnouts have varied from city to city. Last May, the campaign reached the doorsteps of McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., where protesters were arrested after declining to leave the property ahead of the company’s annual meeting.
Some protesters were arrested last summer in Kansas City after a sit-in in the street in front of a McDonald’s restaurant.
Supporters said the April 15 date was picked for the next day of actions because workers are fighting “for 15.”
In a statement, McDonald’s said it respects people’s right to peacefully protest but added that the demonstrations over the past two years have been “organized rallies designed to garner media attention” and asserted that “very few” McDonald’s workers have participated.
Wage campaign organizers also have been working to make the legal case that McDonald’s should be held accountable for working conditions at its franchised restaurants. That finding is seen as critical in being able to negotiate on behalf of workers across the chain, rather than dealing with the thousands of franchisees who operate the majority of McDonald’s more than 14,000 U.S. restaurants.
McDonald’s and other fast-food chains have maintained that they are not responsible for hiring and employment decisions at franchised locations.
One closely watched case addressing the matter began this week when the National Labor Relations Board began hearings on complaints filed by worker groups over alleged labor violations at McDonald’s restaurants. The board’s general counsel said last year that McDonald’s could be named as a joint employer along with franchisees in the complaints.
The hearing is scheduled to resume May 26 and could be a long legal battle. Whichever side loses is expected to appeal, with the possibility of the case eventually heading to the Supreme Court.
In a statement, McDonald’s has said the board’s decision to name McDonald’s as a joint employer “improperly strikes at the heart of the franchise system.”
The Star’s Diane Stafford contributed to this report.