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August 21, 2013

Workers set walkout for Aug. 29

OTTUMWA — Emboldened by an outpouring of support on social media, low-wage fast-food and retail workers from eight cities who have staged walkouts this year are calling for a national day of strikes Aug. 29.

The workers — who are backed by local community groups and national unions and have held one-day walkouts in cities such as New York, St. Louis and Detroit — say they have received pledges of support from workers in dozens of cities across the country.

The workers are calling for a wage of $15 an hour and the right to form a union. Organizers of the walkout say cashiers, cooks and crew members at fast-food restaurants are paid a median wage of $8.94 an hour.

Since some 200 workers walked off their jobs at fast-food restaurants in New York City this past November, the strikes have moved across the country, drawing attention to a fast-growing segment of the workforce that until recently had shown no inclination to organize for purposes of collective bargaining.

The planned August walkout — timed for the immediate aftermath of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the lead-up to Labor Day — is expected to touch 35 or more cities and involve thousands of workers, organizers said. The walkouts have not led to widespread changes, though some workers say they have gotten small pay increases and better hours in the wake of previous strikes.

“The top executives in these companies make huge salaries and the corporations make record profits every year,” said Terrance Wise, 34, a father of three who earns $9.30 an hour at Burger King in Kansas City, where he has worked for eight years. He has a second job at Pizza Hut that pays him $7.47 an hour. “How about them cutting a little off the top? CEOs are taking home millions and many workers are struggling.”

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