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NYC fast-food workers picket for union rights

Karen Matthews, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Workers kicked off a campaign to unionize New York City fast-food restaurants with picket lines Thursday at outlets of major chains including McDonald's and Burger King.

The campaign called Fast Food Forward is demanding a $15-an-hour wage and the right to join a union.

Gregory Reynoso, who picketed outside the Brooklyn Domino's where he works, said he makes $7.25 an hour — the minimum wage in New York — after more than a year.

"That's not enough," Reynoso said. "That's nothing. Life is expensive."

Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change, a community group that is spearheading the effort, said hundreds of workers picketed dozens of fast-food restaurants.

"These jobs pay people poverty wages," Westin said. "The hope is that what today will do is galvanize workers."

The state Labor Department says median pay for fast-food workers in New York City is about $9 an hour.

Representatives of the fast-food industry said workers are treated fairly.

"While I can't speak to an individual's comments, as I don't know the particulars of his situation, I can tell you that we place a lot of value on maintaining an open door culture with our team members that allows them to communicate with us directly without going through a third party," Domino's spokesman Tim McIntyre said.

McDonald's said in a statement: "McDonald's values our employees and has consistently remained committed to them, so in turn they can provide quality service to our customers. We have an open dialogue with our employees and always encourage them to express any concerns or provide feedback, so we can continue to be an even better employer."

Several New York City elected officials expressed support for the fast-food union drive. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn posted on Twitter: "I support fast food restaurant workers' rights to organize and fight for decent wages."

Union drives have been rare at fast-food restaurants in the U.S. because turnover is high and few employees work full-time.