According to The New York Times, organizers will sponsor one-day strikes in 100 cities on Thursday and other protest-related activities in an additional 100 cities the same day. It will be the third such effort in the past two years; in 2012, hundreds of workers in New York City walked out on the job at various fast-food chains to demand higher pay, and just this past August, workers in 50 cities led strikes for the same cause.
Over the past year, labor unions — most recently the Service Employees International Union — and politicians have joined the fight. In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Barack Obama declared that “no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty” and suggested we “raise the federal minimum wage.”
“The single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead,” Obama added.
Yet, despite advocates arguing that a wage increase is necessary to allow workers to sustain a comfortable life, the National Restaurant Association calls the organized protests nothing more than “publicity stunts.”
The fast-food industry is a $200 billion business, yet many chains offer wages just a dollar above the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25. Because the wages are so low, 52 percent of fast-food workers rely on some sort of government assistance, costing taxpayers an approximate $3.8 billion a year, according to a report published by the National Employment Law Project.
Workers are now demanding a $15-an-hour wage, which some have labeled the “living wage.”
However, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association Scott DeFife called the proposed wage “completely unrealistic,” and argued that perhaps fast-food workers living at or around the poverty level are “a result of the economic distress that the country has been under, and not a kind of pattern that the restaurant industry intends to have as its base.”
In an attempt to teach “practical money skills” to its workers, McDonald’s announced a budget plan for employees, insisting that “managing your money can be simple.”
The problem with the proposed budgets, as one McDonald’s employee, Nancy Salgado, notes, is that workers making barely above the minimum wage do not have extra money to save at the end of the month.
Salgado and the millions of others in her situation know that a $15-an-hour wage will not make them “rich,” but, as she points out, it will allow workers to feel “safe” and “live well.”
Photo: Steve Rhodes via Flickr