Wise said that he has looked for better-paying work but has had no luck. "All kinds of industries are cutting back workers," he said. "Most people are forced into these low-wage jobs. The options aren't as plentiful as people think."
Wise, who has been working with Kansas City organizers since January and has participated in one walkout, says he has helped sign up scores of workers who plan to join the nationwide job action.
Willietta Dukes, 39, a mother of two living in Durham, N.C., said she plans to walk off her job at Burger King that day. She said she has little choice. After 15 years of working behind the counters, griddles and deep fryers of fast-food restaurants, she still earns a poverty-level wage. She said her highest salary has been $8.65 an hour, and she rarely is scheduled for a 40-hour week.
"I have been watching on TV and I have seen a lot of people forming around the country, striking for better wages and to have their voices heard. I think it is high time that I did something," Dukes said. "I work hard. I don't sit around. I am good at what I do. Yet after working all day, I do not earn enough to even pay for the basics. I don't want to be in poverty forever."
The fast-food workers are expected to be joined by retail workers from stores such as Macy's, Dollar Tree and Sears. Many of them said they have received pledges of support on Facebook and through the websites of local organizing groups.
Although he has not commented on the fast-food walkouts, President Barack Obama has called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 a hour. The idea has broad support from voters, but opponents say it would further hurt job creation. A recent Public Religion Research Institute survey found that nearly three of four Americans favored raising the minimum wage to $10.