Wake Up Call

Fast Food Workers Want $15 an Hour, Plan National Strike on August 29

It's been nearly a year since New York City fast food employees staged a walk-out in protest over their low wages. It ignited a slow but steadily growing movement within the fast food service industry that's been making its way across the country, as several cities have seen one-day work stoppages through the summer months.

Now there's a call for a national day of strikes that could affect as many as 35 cities and thousands of workers.

See also: Fast Food Dump Continues at Seventh Avenue and McDowell, and It Stinks

The organizing groups, headed by organizations including the Service Employees International Union, want the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour for fast-food workers. They're also calling for the right to form unions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for the more than 500,000 fast-food cooks in the country last year was $9.03, while the 2.9 million food preparation and serving workers in the country made an average hourly wage of $9. That number translates to an annual income of $18,720.

Research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, however, found that an average adult living in New York City, where the minimum wage is $7.25, would need to make at least $12.75 an hour to support him or herself. To support one adult and one child, a person would need to make $24.69.

But the LA Times reports that Scott DeFife, spokesman for the National Restaurant Association, says that most fast food workers make more than minimum wage and that most fast food jobs are held by students and part-time employees. Ex-McDonald's CEO Ed Rensi told Fox News that raising the minimum wage for fast food employees to $15 would kill jobs. Others have pointed out that fast food restaurants tend to be owned by franchisees who take home much smaller profit margins than the central corporation. McDonald's makes almost a third of its annual revenue from franchisees, according to CBS News.

And to put our country's minimum wage in an international perspective, Business Insider used the The Economist's "Big Mac index" to determine how many minutes of work are required to purchase the infamous McDonald's meal. You can view the chart below, but in the states it takes 34 minutes to buy a Big Mac. It takes 22 minutes in New Zealand and France, and 18 minutes in Australia.

On the other end of the spectrum, workers in India would have to work about six hours.

The planned strike would coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Mark on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and would also fall on the day before Labor Day. For more information about the strike, visit the Low Pay Is Not OK website.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria