Fast-food protests to spotlight alleged 'wage theft'

March 17, 2014 at 6:39 PM ET

Fast-food protests are planned for several U.S. cities Tuesday as labor organizers look to bring attention to practices they say illegally deprive workers of their wages.

The protests are planned for about 30 cities, but it's not clear what the scope of the turnout will be. It's part of an ongoing push by labor groups to build support for pay of $15 an hour and the right to unionize.

Image: Protesters march outside McDonald's in Los Angeles
Protests are planned at fast-food outlets Tuesday, March 18, to highlight practices that labor organizers say illegally deprive workers of wages. In this Dec. 5, 2013, file photo, protesters march outside McDonald's in Los Angeles to fight for $15 an hour wages and the right to form a union.

Organizers have also been referring workers to attorneys, who filed lawsuits in three states last week saying McDonald's was stealing their wages.

McDonald's Corp. said it planned to investigate the allegations and take necessary actions. A representative for the company, based in Oak Brook, Ill., did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the planned protests.

The protests by labor groups since late 2012 have captured national media attention and served as an important backdrop for President Obama's push to lift workers' wages. The White House wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, or about $21,000 a year for full-time work. That's up from the current pay of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year, which was last raised in 2009.

Protest organizers are getting financial and organizational support from the Service Employees International Union, as well as local Democratic lawmakers and community leaders. In New York City, public advocate Tish James and others were expected to turn out Tuesday for a rally at a McDonald's near the Empire State Building.

The lawsuits filed in California, Michigan and New York against McDonald's detail a variety of "wage theft" allegations. In Michigan, for example, workers said they were made to wait before clocking in for their shifts so restaurants could maintain a target ratio of labor costs as a percentage of revenue.

Organizers have scheduled protests Tuesday in cities including Detroit; Memphis, Tenn.; Milwaukee; and Oakland, Calif.

-The Associated Press