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Fast-Food Workers Organize Protests To Demand Living Wage

Memo Pad National News

Fast-Food Workers Organize Protests To Demand Living Wage

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mcdonalds strikeThis Thursday, organizers of a movement that supports a wage increase for fast-food workers plan to take to the streets again to put more pressure on major fast-food chains.

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

33 Comments

  1. sigrid28 December 2, 2013

    Demonstrators can also promote a $15-an-hour living wage as a true stimulus to the economy–one in which all Americans can participate. If trickle-down economics weren’t just a trick on all but the hyper-wealthy, employers could not keep hoarding their income and socking it away in off-shore accounts, instead of reinvesting it in their businesses and passing the success on to their employees. Only more tiresome than this liberal talking point is the whining of these rich business owners and their stockholders making a killing on the stock market, complaining about the cost of paying a living wage to the workers who have made them rich and who have never seen a penny of the wealth enjoyed by their employers. Almost nowhere else in our economy is the enormous distance between the haves and the have nots more self-evident than in our fast-food restaurants, where workers and their customers often belong to the same milieus–world’s away from the celebrity lives of the business owners who treat both like second citizens.

    Reply
  2. Dominick Vila December 3, 2013

    What is happening in the United States, when it comes to the minimum salary, livable wages, and the exploitation of millions of fellow Americans is so perverse it is a national embarrassment. Raising the salaries of people performing unskilled or semi-skilled work to $9 should not even be questioned and would go a long way towards matching the labor equality the exists in other industrialized nations. Raising the salaries of those earning minimum wage to $9 would increase the price of a Big Mac by less than 25 cents, which I doubt too many people would object to, and would have the added benefit of pumping more money into the economy, which you would think all our elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, would support.
    Shame on those who deliberately exploit and abuse our fellow citizens. Shame on those who pretend to be fiscally responsible and try to balance the Federal government budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens, while wasting trillions of dollars in crusades, and by implementing policies that benefit a few at the expense of many. The redistribution of wealth that has been taking place in the USA for at least 3 or 4 decades must come to and end.

    Reply
    1. sigrid28 December 3, 2013

      Here, we are on the same page–eager like many, to turn it.

      Reply
  3. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh December 3, 2013

    I got a kick out of the McDonald’s corporate presentation that claimed you can rent a two or three bedroom apartment for less than $600 a month, and they forgot about the utilities, as justification for the $7.25/hr wage.

    Reply
    1. Allan Richardson December 3, 2013

      Toilets? McDonalds employees can go to the bathroom at work (provided it is off the clock), so they don’t need toilets at home too!

      Reply
  4. tax payer December 3, 2013

    $15.00 an hour is what someone that goes to a Trade School earns, so why do these people think they should earn more than Graduates of a Trade School?

    Reply
    1. Dominick Vila December 3, 2013

      Whenever bargaining negotiations start, labor demands wages they know they are not going to get, and corporations offer raises so low, they know their offer will be rejected outright. In most cases, they settle somewhere in the middle. It would not surprise me if the minimum wage is raised to $9.

      Reply
      1. sigrid28 December 3, 2013

        I, too, would not be surprised, but very disappointed. No one can live on $9 an hour. Gradual but rapid increases (maybe $.25 an hour every six months nationwide) could make the minimum wage a reality and give employers time to adjust. How long does it take to remove some funds from your account in the Cayman Islands? Increasing prices gradually on fast food is another option. I would like to see stock transactions taxed and funds go into another form of stimulus–perhaps extending unemployment benefits. The situation is desperate for many.

        Reply
        1. tax payer December 3, 2013

          How many times has the minimum wage gone up $1.75 an hour? When I was earning $1.25 an hour the minimum wage went up to $1.40, so if it does go up look for maybe $.75 an hour at the most. Some Companies pay much more than the minimum wage because one Fast Food Place here in our city pays ten dollars an hour to their employees.

          Reply
          1. sigrid28 December 3, 2013

            As I said, it could be raised maybe $.25 an hour every six months or so, incrementally, rather than all at once, in order to give businesses time to adjust, perhaps raising prices slightly for one increment, putting income into pay raises for the next, and so forth. The company paying its fast food workers $10 an hour is on track to be less inconvenienced than Walmart, for example, by the lifting of the minimum wage until it becomes a living wage, thereafter matching it to a fluctuating level set by the CBO, for example. Our economy would improve dramatically by having the living wage built into the nation’s financial structure as trickle-down economics has failed our lowest wage earners.

            Reply
          2. tax payer December 3, 2013

            By raising the minimum wage like you say many people won’t go and purchase Fast Food since the prices will go up every six months the employees get a raise. Right now at Wha-ta-burger their Hamburgers are around $3.25 each, so they would go up in price to maybe $5.00. That’s the only place I will buy a Hamburger and it is also very rare I buy one. I am referring about the people that buy their Food at those places on a daily basis.

            Reply
          3. sigrid28 December 3, 2013

            You seem to be willfully misunderstanding. I said for one six-month period, perhaps the price goes up slightly to accommodate a $.25 raise; during the next six months, salary increases come from higher profits the company puts right back into the business; maybe for the next six month $.25 raise, the company dips into its huge surplus in the Cayman Islands; and so forth. How in the world would eating a fast-food hamburger everyday help you better grasp these rather simple economic principles?

            Reply
          4. tax payer December 3, 2013

            Who comes out ahead and who loses? The consumers lose and the employees get their raise. The Company still makes their Profit, but at the cost to the consumers.

            Reply
          5. sigrid28 December 3, 2013

            The company only makes a profit if it can retain its low-cost employees and at the same time keep prices low enough to retain its customers. Somewhere along the line, increased wages must come out of profit, which is only just. I will bet you a cookie that you cannot name one firm that NEVER puts any of its profit back into the business by paying better wages to retain good workers, even in this economy skewed toward the wealthy.

            Reply
          6. tax payer December 3, 2013

            Non-profit Organizations may be the only ones that may do that, and maybe they won’t either.

            Reply
          7. sigrid28 December 3, 2013

            You know nothing at all about business practices in the for-profit sector–just what the right-wing media have told you, I guess, a sort of cartoon version of commerce. It was asking too much to think you could name even one business that NEVER puts profits back into its operation either to retain good workers or improve product.

            Reply
          8. tax payer December 3, 2013

            How can every employees expect to earn what a Manager earns after working so many years and earning that position they now have as Managers. You have to earn your way up to Management and only so many will make it. There can’t be more Chiefs than Indians in any Business.

            Reply
          9. Independent1 December 3, 2013

            Do you realize that Costco is the most profitable retailer between Wal-Mart, Target and itself. And that only Wal-Mart and Target pay wages anywhere close to the minimum wage? Costco pays its cashiers between $15 and $20/hr and it’s managers make between $22 and $25/hour. And only a small fraction of Costco’s employees are part time with all full timers getting healthcare benefits and pension plans. While Walmart and Target pay less than 1/2 what Costco does, yet although Costco doesn’t earn as much as Wal-Mart, based on its size and return on investment, it greatly outperforms Wal-Mart and it’s stock has risen by about 1,000% over the past ten years while Wal-Mart and Target stock is only up between 300 and 400 percent.

            You are by far putting too much emphasis on salaries. What you’re saying may hold true for some very small Mom and Pop type operations, but they simply do not hold true for the vast majority of U.S. retailers. The vast majority could easily pay their employees a living wage and simply choose not to do so.

            Reply
          10. sigrid28 December 4, 2013

            Good news! When the lowest paid employees make more money so do managers: Like all boats rising with the high tide, so too do all salaries on improved pay scales for everyone when employers pay a living wage. Note that increased pay for managers (as well as increased pay for lowest paid employees) gets plowed right back into the economy as a stimulus. Making minimum wage a living wage is one of the best ways to improve the economy and decrease the use of temporary safety net programs like Medicaid and food assistance.

            Reply
          11. Independent1 December 3, 2013

            Sigrid, McDonald’s already has to pay a $12/hour minimum wage to all its employees in Europe and actually makes higher profit margins there than it does in the U.S. Elizabeth Warren demonstrated at a congressional hearing that McDonald’s could afford to raise the min. wage to $10.10 by adding 4 cents to just one combo meal. Virtually all the multi-national retailers could easily afford to raise the min wage to at least $10 with no problems to their bottom lines (adding a couple cents to items here and there) but they simply choose note to.
            It’s my feeling that there should be separate minimum wages for multi-nationals and other retailers who could easily afford to pay a higher wage, and a separate lower middle wage for smaller ‘Mom and Pop’ type operations that couldn’t afford a sudden wage increase – like what you have been describing. But the min wage should be jumbed to $10.10 now for multi-nationals and other firms with large enough retail operations to easily absorb the increase.

            Reply
          12. sigrid28 December 4, 2013

            Great idea. What you propose has a precedent in government policy: note the different treatment given to large companies and small companies within the provisions of the ACA. Your point about multi-nationals is supported by a taste test, as well. There is a difference between McDonald’s sandwiches sold abroad (in France, for example) and those sold here. They DO cost more there, and they taste noticeably better, though they are considered a novelty food rather than a staple as they are here. Still, one can become homesick for a good old Big Mac made in the USA.

            Reply
          13. Mike A. December 5, 2013

            Employees are also consumers, genius.

            Reply
          14. tax payer December 5, 2013

            If they get their food with SNAP they ( aren’t consumers ) because the food is given to them free and you pay for the food unless you too get that free SNAP card.

            Reply
          15. Mike A. December 5, 2013

            Okay, so you just made the case for raising the minimum wage. Congratulations. Or maybe now you want to suggest that all tax payers should help subsidize the cost of a cheeseburger for the fast food consumers?

            Reply
          16. tax payer December 5, 2013

            You do know some of the people can get cash back from their SNAP card, so we are playing for their cheese burgers.

            Reply
          17. Mike A. December 5, 2013

            I see your cheeseburger and raise you a quarter pounder. Frederico, gimme your big mac. I’m playing for your cheeseburgers.

            Reply
          18. tax payer December 5, 2013

            I get it, but hey everyone makes a typo error once in a awhile.

            Reply
          19. Independent1 December 3, 2013

            Tax payer, Elisabeth Warren demonstrated at a congressional hearing that McDonald’s could afford to raise the minimum wage up to $10.10 cents by adding 4 cents to the cost of ONE COMBO MEAL. Four cents to One Combo Meal.
            There should be two minimum wage levels – one for multi-national large retailers who could afford to add a couple of cents to a wide range ofl products and have enough business turnover to pay a higher minimum wage NOW. And a lower, staggered minimum wage like sigrid is describing for smaller, Mom and Pop type local businesses that would have trouble with a sudden wage increase. McDonald’s in fact, already has to pay $12/hour to all the workers in their European stores and makes more profits on those stores than it does on the ones in America.

            Reply
  5. OKsettledown December 3, 2013

    The answer to low wages is not a matter of simply raising them. Our business schools have been teaching how to increase profits for a very long time. They do not teach morality, compassion or helping their fellow man. Businesses are not going to reduce their profits. That is a fact, like it or not. Therefore, any rise in the minimum wage will result in an immediate rise in prices. As prices rise, the skilled workers will feel the pinch and demand higher wages as well. Then we have inflation. No matter the wage, prices will level out to keep some at the bottom and the middle class in a bind. That is the mantra of the schools of business in this country. Morality will never trump profit. And, the government is the only entity to increase their “profit” as they collect the increased tax revenue from the higher wages.

    Reply
    1. sigrid28 December 3, 2013

      Is it possible that the situation is so terrible for so many in this country because the business schools have it all wrong and may have had it all wrong for a long time? Maybe it’s time to think beyond the box, for a change: to innovate. Raising the minimum wage is hardly a new idea, but its currency in today’s world is rather surprising. Hoarding wealth accumulated by an elite class and forcing a despised class to work at low wages (or none at all) is nothing new either. The naivete of plutocrats who think this can go on as long as they like represents a shocking state of social and political illiteracy. The kind of income disparity that now exists in the U.S. has a history of destabilizing any economy where it takes place. Believe me, when these business school graduates, who have been educated to dismiss “morality, compassion or helping their fellow man” in pursuit of a career, begin to lose their perks, they will set up an even louder cry than that heard on a daily basis today, which represents the grief they have caused the many low-wage workers they have made it their business to disadvantage.

      Reply
    2. Independent1 December 3, 2013

      Virtually every retailer and larger corporation in America can right now afford to raise the wages it pays its employees to a living wage level without raising prices for the products it sells enough for anyone to notice – but they all choose not to. Elizabeth Warren demonstrated convincingly at a congressional hearing that McDonald’s could afford to raise the min wage for all its employees to $10.10 by adding 4 cents to one combo meal – Do you think you’d notice if McDonald’s changed the price of one of its combo meals from $7.15 to $7.19? That’s all McDonald’s would have to do because they have enough customer turnover where 4 cents on one combo meal would cover all their costs for paying their employees about $3 more per hour.

      McDonald’s already has to pay alll the workers in its European stores a $12/hour minimum wage and they actually make more profit on their European stores than they do in the U.S, – and probably why? Because since the min wage in Europe is $12/hr, far more people have enough money to eat more regularly at McDonalds and when there, to order the more higher priced items on which McDonald’s makes more profit. The majority don’t have to order off the $1 menu.

      Reply
  6. Allan Richardson December 3, 2013

    It is time for workers to realize, as John Steinbeck wrote, that they really ARE an exploited proletariat, NOT “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” Horatio Alger stories are still “possible” but very unlikely, because the “never embarrassed millionaires” do everything in their power to stop them from happening. Just because some lottery tickets will win a jackpot, is no reason to expect that YOURS will.

    Reply
  7. guest December 3, 2013

    Looking over McDonald’s employee budget booklet. They are claiming those people are earning 475.00 a week – WHAT MCDONALD restaurant is this? Also, some other curious things – 20/month for health insurance??? I’m working for mcdonalds if I can get insurance for that. Of course, if this is true – it surely doesn’t qualify anymore because it would actually have to cover something. Then I see 50/month for heating costs?? In what century is this? Along with their estimated 40/month for electricity. Maybe when I was about 10 yrs old – and I’m 59 right now. Their budget is so unrealistic it isn’t even funny. But using their numbers, I can see how you could save some money working at mcdonalds – of course in their world 40 years ago – they were still not paying 475.00 a week – no matter what their projection is.

    Reply

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