Fast-food workers march toward the
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., on
Thursday. Similar rallies occurred in about 100 cities across the U.S.
When you're making eight bucks an hour, which is pretty typical in the fast-food industry, it's tough to make ends meet.
And increasingly, the working poor are asking this question: Why am I living in poverty, even when I'm working full time?
the message that thousands of fast-food workers rallying Thursday in
about 100 U.S. cities — from Oakland to Memphis to Washington, D.C. —
want heard. A in big cities is closer to $14 an hour, and it jumps to about $20 an hour for an adult supporting a child.
protests are part of a growing campaign backed by a coalition of
advocacy groups, religious organizations and union organizers aimed at
raising fast-food wages to $15 an hour.
At at time when the
fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. economy are also the lowest-paid, the
issue of income inequality is on the lips of leaders worldwide.
Amal Mimish, an organizer with Good Jobs
Nation, registers protesters at the fast-food-workers' rally in
Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
From the a few weeks back to President Obama's Wednesday, it's clear that there's growing unease about the divide between the haves and the have-nots.
And the image problem for the fast-food industry is exemplified by
urging McDonald's chief executive officer, Donald Thompson, to cancel
his order for another corporate jet until he pays all his employees a
According to the petition, McDonald's a $35
million luxury Bombardier jet for its corporate executives. Yet many of
the company's employees make so little that they rely on public
assistance to get by.
"It's not right to impoverish your
employees while sailing above them at a rate of $2,500 an hour," reads
the petition started by the . "It's immoral to do it with a taxpayer subsidy."
In a recent ,
economists at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 52
percent of fast-food workers rely on taxpayer-funded public assistance
programs, such as food stamps or Medicaid.
"Taxpayers are subsidizing the low-wage model of these employers, who are making record profits in some cases," says , an associate professor at Columbia University who studies income inequality.
McDonald's didn't comment on the new round of protests Thursday. But back in October, a company spokeswoman
The Salt that McDonald's history is full of examples of individuals who
worked their first job with the company and then went on to have
successful careers — both within and outside of McDonald's.
for the push from workers for higher hourly wages, McDonald's "does not
determine wages set by our more than 3,000 U.S. franchises," a
spokeswoman for the company says.
But at the restaurants run by
the company — fewer than 10 percent of the roughly 14,000 McDonald's
outlets in the U.S. — the spokeswoman explains, "we pay salaries that
begin at minimum wage, but range up from that figure, depending on the
job and employee's experience level."
And according to an analysis by the financial information company , many franchise operators are seeing significant increases in sales revenue.
the past four years, privately held fast-food restaurants have seen
profit margins nearly double, Sageworks found, while the restaurants'
labor costs have remained flat.
So what will it take to push up wages? Depends on whom you ask.
politicians are under pressure to raise the federal minimum wage. The
president made his case Thursday. And already, a patchwork of state and
municipal pay hikes have been passed. For instance, New Jersey passed a
ballot initiative to by $1 to $8.25 an hour. And many workers in the
city of SeaTac, Wash. — home to the Seattle airport — will get a raise
to $15 an hour.
"The federal minimum wage has lagged behind the rising cost of living for the past four decades," says of the National Employment Law Project.
According to ,
a project of the National Employment Law Project, the minimum wage
would be $10.74 if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years.
"Workers' backs are against the wall," Temple says.
not everyone agrees that raising the federal minimum wage will fix the
problem. "I would oppose raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour," says of the American Enterprise Institute.
a hike in wages would lead to higher prices at the fast-food counter
for all of us, Strain says, and employers would hold back on hiring. In
addition, fast-food chains might replace people with new automated
technology, which could be cheaper over time, he says.
Strain favors responses that wouldn't put the onus on business owners, such as an expansion of the or other subsidies.
Otherwise, free market economists say, low-skill workers run the risk of being priced out of the job market.
true that the fast-food industry has given lots of young workers a
start in the job market. In fact, the current CEO of McDonald's started
behind the counter of a Michigan McDonald's decades ago.
But at a time when of fast-food workers are in their 20s or older and one-quarter are raising children, the demands for higher wages are growing.
Why McDonald's Employee Budget Has Everyone Up In ArmsAs the saying goes, everyone should have a budget.
No matter how much or how little you make, a budget will help you reach your financial goals, right?
Possibly with that idea in mind, McDonald's MCD +1.18%
decided to teach its employees how to create one. But in doing so, the
company may have inadvertently done something else: Shown that it’s
nearly impossible to make a living off the minimum wage.
RELATED: Will The McDonald’s Employee Budget Help Get The Minimum Wage Raised?
Take a look at the sample budget, provided in a Web site that McDonald’s created in conjunction with Visa V -0.08%. Here are some of the main criticisms of it:
- It assumes the worker is working two jobs.
- It surmises that health insurance costs $20 a month.
- It doesn’t include child care, groceries, clothing or gas for the worker’s car.
- Also, another, possibly earlier, version of the budget (seen here) proposed that heating would cost $0 a month.
The health insurance line item may be the most absurd. As this video points out — is that $20 for Bandaids and nine aspirin a month? The average national health insurance premium for
an individual is $215 per month. As far back as 2010, even McDonald’s
own plan for its workers cost $14 a week, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Also, that missing gas expense? In 2012, the average American family spent almost $250 a month on gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
RELATED: How She Lives On Minimum Wage: One McDonald’s Worker’s Budget
To McDonald’s credit, other parts of the budget are more realistic.
While the rent is well below the national average of $1,062 per month, according to a recent report by Reis,
it is possible in many parts of the country to find housing for $600 a
month. And the monthly phone bill can run $100. Plus, let’s applaud the
fact that they encourage the employee to develop savings.
Despite its good intentions, when comes down to it, McDonald’s, by
positing two jobs for this fictional worker, has tacitly admitted that
its employees can’t live off the wages it pays.
McDonald’s told ThinkProgress,
“The samples that are on this site are generic examples … intended to
help provide a general outline of what an individual budget may look
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like people are buying it.