Fast Food Worker Protests Focus on Wages, Working Poverty, and Wealth Divide

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December 5, 2013; Ms. Magazine

This holiday season is shaping up to be memorable—historical, even—in its loud and constant labor activism for low wage workers. This is being consistently linked to the growing wealth divide with a renewed focus on the economy, which has grown even more skewed post-recession. Have people had enough?

On the heels of protests by workers at Walmart, thousands of fast food workers in hundreds of cities across the United States walked off their jobs on Thursday to protest for a higher minimum wage.

The protest demand is for $15 an hour, as contrasted with the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Ms. Magazine says “seventy-three percent of all front-line workers are women, and 43 percent are black or Latino. Fifty-two percent of fast food workers rely on public assistance because their wages are too low to survive on…Meanwhile, the CEO of McDonald’s raked in about $13.8 million in fiscal 2012, an estimated 737 times what the average fast-food worker earned.”

Fifty-three members of Congress, meanwhile, sent a letter to the CEOs of major fast food corporations urging them to raise wages.

“Too many hard-working families are being forced to depend on poverty-level wages,” read the letter. “Paying fair wages and putting more spending money in the hands of consumers will strengthen our economy.”

This is, of course, a searingly obvious point.—Ruth McCambridge

  • e leichter

    It would be nice if the world would clue in to the fact that the ceo of a public company is not an entrepreneur. He/she is an employee. Perhaps an employee with noteworthy skills –but an employee nonetheless. It is impossible to conceive of any justification for paying any employee wages even close to or exceeding $1 million/year.

  • michael

    You’re asking the wrong question. It’s not about what an employee needs to pay the rent, it’s about how much value they add to the organization. Fast food is a high volume, low margin business. There are two types of employees: 1) Temporary workers who are paying the bills while going to school 2) those with marginal work skills/work ethic who have tried and failed in better paying positions. Could the fast food industry survive as a high-wage operation? Unlikely…..few employees described could add the type of value which is worth $15/hr.

  • michael

    It’s a little surprising that the head of a $27 billion company makes only $13 million. And it is easy to justify that level of compensation. If a CEO can by his work goose sales just 1% then it’s an extra $270 million in revenue….that’s why they get top $$$$#.