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.
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.
Common Dreams has reposted an article by Michelle Chen who compares the protest methods of food workers to those once used by the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), direct action. While these workers lack the “protection” of a mainstream union, they can take action and change quickly to outmaneuver their corporate foes. Some of the protest methods have included education about sustainability and good eating habits.
Will we soon see a day when McDonald’s workers are unionized and well paid? Probably not. But the action these workers are taking will hopefully wake us some consumers and force them to understand they only cheat themselves by asking low wage workers to make cheap fast food. Some workers will hopefully improve their pay and how they are treated. However, until consumers wake up and support low wage workers, big corporations will do what they do best: Keep wages low.
Postscript: A report has come out that consumers have had a negative reaction to Papa John’s threat to cut workers’ health coverage. Maybe consumers are waking up.