Charlotte was one of several cities where fast food workers staged November protests calling for higher wages. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) organized the protests to spotlight the low wages many in the fast food industry receive.
North Carolina’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the same as the federal rate, which was last increased in 2009.
The protests, which SEIU has promised will continue nationwide in 2014, come at a time when living-wage issues are grabbing headlines.
President Obama has announced his support for a higher minimum wage, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to move legislation to raise the federal minimum. Any wage hike bill will face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Several states have recently raised the minimum wage.
The Charlotte protest was peaceful, with protesters entering the restaurant, but not blocking patrons’ access.
A bill to peg North Carolina’s minimum wage to increases in the cost of living never made it out of committee last year.
Critics of the current minimum wage note that 66,000 fast food workers in the state receive some sort of public assistance, which costs North Carolina taxpayers $264 million per year.
Fast food employers such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Yum Brands (which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut) counter that their restaurants create work opportunities and provide training that can lead to career advancement.
Note: The New Year is a good time for employers to examine their pay practices to ensure they comply with state and federal laws.