‘Yes We Can!’: Labor Groups Protest NYC McDonald’s

by Josh Encinias

Labor groups held 30 protests against McDonald’s franchises across the country Tuesday. The focus of today’s protests is “wage theft,” part of an ongoing campaign to raise the federal minimum wage. 

In New York City, organizers chose to protest the McDonald’s at 33rd Street and 5th Avenue, across from the Empire State Building. 

The protest was planned for 11:30 am, but protestors did not show up on time. Around 11:45, reporters found protestors eating a late-morning meal and drinking coffee at a Wendy’s restaurant next door to McDonald’s.

When asked which fast food restaurant the wage theft opponents would protest next, one protestor responded, “All of them!” 

Protestors moved from brunch at Wendy’s to protesting at the neighboring McDonald’s. The protestors poured in to occupy the McDonald’s, with a large number of reporters following close behind.

The store manager quickly assembled what police officers he could find to kick out media members, but this reporter was able to order a coffee and sit in a booth as a paying customer. About 100 protestors and customers filled the lobby, and police moved to shut down the restaurant.

When restaurant operations stopped, a bearded and handcuffed Ronald McDonald was brought in to lead chants of “Yes we can! and “Every nickel every dime, we deserve our overtime!” 

Before the crowd could get too rowdy, police escorted the protestors to a designated picket line. 

As the crowd filed into place, protestors took turns speaking to the press. New York City Public Advocate Tish James stood next to the handcuffed Ronald McDonald and voiced her support for the action against a New York City business. 

“It’s hard enough for fast food workers to survive in this economy,” James said, and promised to push legislation to create a “wage theft” hotline.

While Tuesday’s protest in New York City was reported by AP to be smaller than previous years’ demonstrations, protestors can take solace in the steep minimum wage hike — from $7.25 to $8 — that took effect in the Big Apple January 1. New York’s minimum wage will hit $9 in 2015. 

During National Review’s interview with Papa John’s employee Shantel Walker, an organizer interrupted to ensure Walker was prepared to speak with the press. When this reporter continued speaking with Walker, the organizer ended the interview. This reporter was directed to the picket line, where workers were said to be “more than happy” to be interviewed.

None of the ten protestors National Review interviewed worked at the McDonald’s being protested. None of the employees of that location joined the protest.

Three black-leather-clad French women asked National Review what the protest was about. When they appeared not to understand that it was a minimum wage protest, this reporter raised his hands and shouted “Rah rah, give us more money.” The three visitors to the United States nodded and walked away.

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