Huffington Post reports that New York is making a big stride toward a state-wide minimum wage of $15 per hour for fast food workers. A panel set up by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a politician often criticized for not being liberal or progressive. It’s not clear if this measure would only apply to the fast food industry or if it would cover all industries. In any case, this is another example of politicians admitting that the current minimum wage is too low. America needs a raise, and hopefully leaders in New York will set a good example.
Daily Kos reports that Ivar’s Fish Bar, a seafood restaurant chain in Seattle, will stop taking TIPs from customers and raise its employees’ minimum wage to $15 per hour. Of course, they will have to raise prices, which many critics of an increased minimum wage claim will kill small businesses. Not really. The price increase will be 4%, which is much less than most customers would leave as a tip. Rather than paint this as a situation where one or more parties lose, it’s a win-win for all concerned. Employee get a raise. Customers pay less. Finally, the business earns good will with its customers and employees. Ivar’s Fish Bar shows that American businesses can pay a living wage.
Writing in Huffington Post, Amy Traub, an Analyst at Demos, notes that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that McDonald’s workers could organize as one union because of the corporation’s rules for franchisees. This ruling will be appealed. However, if it is maintained, fast food workers have won a great victory in their fight for a living wage. Traub also notes efforts in the U.S. Senate and House to introduce new legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize. Given the current structure of the Congress, it’s hard to imagine these measures becoming law. That’s the bad news. The good news is that strong progressive voices like Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Keith Ellison are speaking out and presenting alternatives to “right to work” [for less] schemes. As Traub states, this has been a good week for workers. May there be many more.
Aljazeera America reports that 1,300 fast food workers from across the U.S. have gathered in Chicago to organize and fight for an increased minimum wage. They want more than more money. The workers are also seeking the protection that comes from being part of a union. Their efforts will set an example for workers in other industries, even middle class professionals who have seen small salary increases over the past few years. Low wage workers are leading the way.
Today in over 100 cities workers at fast food restaurants walked off the job. It’s easy to call this a strike. We see people with signs walking a picket. We are used to seeing those images and don’t think enough about what it means when the people striking are not protected by a union. In most states, employers can fire employees for such action. These strikes show how desperate workers are getting in the U.S. Who can live on $8-$9 an hour, especially when they are scheduled to work less than 40 hours per week? The workers marching outside of fast food restaurants today are brave Americans, and they are giving us all a lesson in what it means to be a citizen.
A Michigan fast food restaurant called Moo Cluck Moo is raising its employees starting salary from $12 per hour to $15. How is this possible when most of its competitors pay at or close to the minimum wage? Moo Cluck Moo has chosen a different path. Brian Parker, one of the restaurant’s owners, said, “It just feels like the human thing to do.” A business can do human things. And sometimes, it’s even good business. When Henry Ford gave his workers a decent raise, they were able to buy his cars. A good economy does not trickle down. It’s not a gift from fictional “job creators.” When working people and the middle class have money and security, they will spend. We need more companies with owners like Moo Cluck Moo.
Is a big change coming? Fast food workers struck today in 60 cities. They are calling for a raise from wages as low as $7.25-$8 per hour to $15, a living wage. While the issue most often cited in the media is hourly pay rate, workers are also protesting work schedules that vary in hours per week. Most importantly, they are calling for the right to join together in a union, just as the super rich join together to achieve their interests in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or ALEC.
Is their request for $15 an hour unrealistic? Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson points out that the minimum wage in 1963 was $2 per hour. Adjusted for inflation, that wage now would range between $13.39-$15.27. Over the last 30 years, the poorest working people have worked hard with less security while falling farther behind. Three cheers to the fast food workers for standing up. May many more low wage workers stand up and demand what is right.
Today is the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. While everyone correctly remembers Martin Luther King’s role as a civil rights champion, we should not forget his commitment to workplace justice. King often walked with striking workers. He preached the need for good jobs and good wages. Surely his voice would ring out today as an advocate for those low wages workers who are asking America to wake up. Tomorrow will be a day of strikes and direct action in the fast food industry. If Dr. King were alive, he would be standing with our brothers and sisters who labor at minimum wage jobs with no benefits. He knew that all Americans deserve equal opportunity – and a living wage.
Fast food workers stuck in 7 cities across the U.S. today. Common Dreams reports that this could be the biggest strike of its kind ever to take place. Workers, many of whom are only making the minimum hourly wage of $7.25, are calling for a living wage of $15 per hour. At first, it sounds shocking that anyone would ask to have their wages doubled. However, it’s not that big a challenge.
Writing in Huffington Post, Caroline Fairchild reports that it would be fairly to double the wage of McDonald’s workers. The price of a Big Mac would go up by all of .68, which would double the wage of all workers in the company, including CEO Donald Thompson, who takes home $8.75 million per year (probably with a few extra million in stock options tossed in). It wouldn’t take much to help those most in need of a raise.
If we dug just a little deeper and paid a little more, an army of consumers would lift this economy without any government intervention. For this to happen, large companies like McDonalds and Walmart would need to do two things: First raise prices a little. Second, pass the wealth along to their employees. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
Writing in the Nation, Josh Eidelson reports that workers at “dozens” of fast food restaurants have walked off the job. Some restaurants had to be closed because so many workers are on strike. Eidelson also discuss a report that alleges wage theft in the New York fast food industry. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Low wage workers need to stand up, and the rest of us need to support them.