Fast food workers in dozens of cities nationwide walked out Thursday to demand a $15-per-hour minimum wage and the ability to unionize, rallying supporters and confusing detractors.
Employee walkouts occurred in more than 50 major cities Thursday, including Chicago and Detroit. A series of strikes have been leading up to the walkouts since last November, yet news of these protests has yet to reach the ears of many students and local businesses.
Although the general manager at Taco Bell in Mount Pleasant was aware of the anticipated walkouts, he declined to comment along with managers at Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Arby’s.
Mount Pleasant appeared to be without any protests as of Thursday afternoon.
Wendy’s employee Kevin Lueders, 20, said that although he was not aware of the nationwide protests, he is not planning on supporting them.
“I don’t agree with the walkouts,” Lueders said. “It’s not that hard of work, really.”
Lueders said had a walkout occurred in Mount Pleasant, he would not be keen to participate.
CMU students showcased supportive reactions to the news. Jackson senior Jessica Blood said she would not hesitate to boycott one of the fast food restaurants in Mount Pleasant if employees asked for a smaller raise.
“I support them getting a higher wage, but I think $15 is a little bit too much,” Blood said. “There’s a lot of people I know who do jobs that are more complex than fast food jobs…that get paid lower amounts.”
Saginaw senior Zachary Hadd echoed this sentiment, saying $15 per hour would be an acceptable goal if employees were asking for such a high raise in the hopes of boosting minimum wage by a few dollars.
The issue of a minimum wage raise has been on the national radar since President Barack Obama first proposed a $9 minimum wage in his State of the Union address earlier this year.
“I do think that minimum wage is a little low,” Hadd said. “I don’t necessarily think that a walkout or a protest like that is the best way of dealing with things like that.”
Laingsburg senior Josh Barnhart was strongly opposed to the high-wage goals of fast-food employees, saying $15 per hour is too much to ask for.
“I think that’s a ridiculous jump,” Barnhart said. “If they’re trying to jump (to) $15, and then they settle for $10, that would make sense.”
Barnhart said he would not boycott any of the involved restaurants, since he is not employed by them and stands to lose nothing if protests continue.
“I have no real connection to them,” Barnhart said. “So, I would not actively participate in the protest, but I would not be opposed to their efforts.”
Many of the popular chain restaurants in Mount Pleasant appeared unaffected by the national walkouts. The strikes were announced prior to action to give managers a chance to adjust, according to ABC News.