Fast wood workers have united with union activists and labor groups by walking off their jobs on Thursday in cities across the United States. Although no violence was reported, seventeen fast food chains were targeted, including some of the most popular such as Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s.
The restaurants reported that although the $200 billion fast-food industry was targeted in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago none of the stores had to close during the protests. Sales were not stopped despite worker’s efforts.
Workers claim that they should be paid upwards of $15 per hour, a substantial increase for their current salary of $8 to $9 per hour. One worker claimed the corporations which own these companies could easily pay more. And workers at these restaurants, even if they work full-time, are barely able to make it, especially if they live in cities such as Los Angeles or New York City where the cost of living is extremely high.
Who organized the fast food protest?
The protest was organized by Fast Food Forward. They are financed by the Service Employees International Union and have over 2 million members throughout the United States. SEIU has also been funding the campaign and has spent an estimate $15 million since January of last year.
But questions have been raised about the involvement of unions. In fact, the protests seem to lack support from many workers in the restaurants and involvement may be more union produced. Glenn Spencer, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president, argued that unions have drummed up this issue to garner more support for unions, whose membership has been declining in recent years, costing unions millions of dollar of support.
Others claim the protests are about what is fair and right. Activists claim that tension and political activism are needed to find more equitable wages.
What do the employers say? McDonald’s has publically said they do not discourage their worker’s rights to protest, as long as they are peaceful and lawful. They also said employees will not be punished and can return to work.
Will raising the minimum wage hurt the economy?
There is a great deal of debate about what raising the minimum wage will do to the economy. The CBO reports a potential of 500,000 jobs would be lost, but there’s also some suggestion that “900,000 people (or roughly 300,000 households) would be lifted out of poverty by a $10.10 minimum wage.” Others argue even with the wage increase it would do little to help lift the more than 47 million Americans out of poverty.
So what’s the bottom line? Some experts claim raising the minimum wage may modestly reduce the poverty rate, but we don’t know exactly what would happen to employment levels. Others argue we could find more effective ways to reduce poverty.
So what’s next for workers? Pew Research Center found that “71% of people favored an increase in the federal minimum to $9.00/hour from $7.25. But while large majorities of Democrats (87%) and independents (68%) said they favored such an increase, Republicans were split.” So it looks like the fight will continue.
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