Thomas Roberts   |  January 01, 1910

In nationwide protests, fast-food workers demand more pay

NBC’s Katy Tur reports from outside a Wendy’s franchise restaurant where protesters are sounding off about low wages for workers and high company profits.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> happening right now in boston and more than 50 other cities, the largest ever coordinated strike by fast-food workers. they began walking off the job as early as 6:00 a.m . on the east coast , and protesting outside of businesses like mcdonald 's burger king and macy's demanding a salary of double the minimum wage . katy tur is live at a demonstration, and here first, though, katy , tell us about the images that you're seeing, the stories you are learning about and how effect i have been these protesters are being.

>> we're seeing the protests coming to where we're standing, lining up behind me. 200 or so were at a mcdonald 's earlier this morning and going to this wendy's we're told thus just the tip of the iceberg , this is happening in 60 cities across the country. workers say they cannot feed their family off minimum wage , they cannot survive off the current wages. not only are they asking for higher wages, but also asking for the right to unionize. well, you would be wrong, the statistics say that's not the case. showing that three out of five new jobs are minimum-wage jobs. the mall project says 88% of those are over 20 years old, a third of those are over 40 years old. just take a listen to two of the workers we spoke with earlier today. i can't go back to school.

>> i either have to choose a metro card or i eat today. i can't even do that not on $8 in new york city .

>> reporter: now, fast-feed companies say they can't afford the higher wages. i hope you can hear me, thomas. they're getting loud out here. it's only expected to get bigger.

>> katy tur, joining me is paul asan. so let's start out with the fact that this is all coinciding with the march on washington . we saw the celebration take place with the president yesterday marking 50 years, but the president brought up the fact about jobs in this country, especially minimum wage jobs and the only place to go is up. take a look.

>> the test was never whether the door was cracked, it's whether it provides a fair shot for the many, to the brack custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the native-american veteran. to win that ballots, to answer that call, this remains our great unfinished business .

>> they're calling for higher minimum wage . how much of an impact do you think today's protesting will have?

>> they're spreading across the country in a way we haven't seen in recent u.s. history . these are one of the fastest-growing low-wage industries. these aren't stepping-stone jobs. the bulk of the gain skills and advance with us or move on to something else. mcdonald 's says they competitive pay and benefits, and training for those who wish to take advantage of the opportunities. our history is full of examples for individuals who worked their first jobs and went on to successful careers both within and outside of mcdonald 's. this just handed to me from the national restaurant association , paul , saying this industry providing opportunity to over 13 million americans nine out of the ten started as hourly workers. those that do are predominantly working part time and even fast foods starts a little above it, but the medians wage for fast food is less than $9 an hour. that means the bulk of the workers are making less than $10 an hour. these are positive-wage jobs. there are very few management positions to advance to, the bulk of the workers spend a number of years in these jobs. the idea that you can open a fast-food franchise is unrealistic. most people are surprised to to know -- and i think the reasons these strikes are taking grabbing the attention of american people is this is a representative of a trend. these are the fastest-growing jobs. tens of millions spend their time there, more than one in four private sector workers is in one of these sub-$10 low wage jobs.

>> so there's every reason to believe this industry is highly profitable. many industries are seeing record corporate profits, the road map for why this is achievable is what we're seeing in low wage industries. janitors were makings $8, $9 15 years ago. there's no reason that fast food highly profitable can't do the same. they're industry leaders paying a living wage already. costco, trader joe 's, fast-food california's belund india-n-out burgers.

>> paul , thanks so much.

>>> what happens when a restaurant actually pays their workers more? there's moo cluck moo, it pays $1 an hour. you