Fast-food workers from McDonald’s, Burger, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s walked out of their jobs today, striking for the right to unionize and earn a living wage.
According to USA Today, workers want the freedom to be self-determining on the job:
For workers, it’s about pushing the major fast-food companies to meet their demands for $15-an-hour minimum wages and the right to form a union without retaliation.
In New York, more than 400 demonstrators gathered outside the McDonald’s at Times Square, chanting and carrying signs. Some 14 men and five women were arrested while seated in the street and blocking traffic, police say.
The demographics of the labor force have changed, prompting career fast-food employees and younger workers to form an alliance against the exploitative industry practices:
To highlight the income gap between low-level employees and top-level executives, last year Bloomberg calculated that a 44-year-old Chicago man named Tyree Johnson, who’s worked at McDonald’s for two decades yet still receives only $8.25/hour (Illinois’ minimum), would require “more than a century on the clock” to earn the $8.75 million former CEO Jim Skinner earned in 2011 alone.
Lobbying firms and fast-food industry public relations firms claim that these protesters’ demands would lead to job destruction and higher prices:
CNN Money reports data suggesting that fast-food CEOs currently make 1,000 times more than the average worker in the industry, and that around 33% of fast food workers have spent at least some time in college.
An analysis by TIME earlier this year found that profit margins for privately held fast-food businesses are on the rise. McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food chain, had a $1.52 billion quarterly profit last quarter, up from $1.46 billion a year earlier. But same-store sales are flat for the fast food giant, which could lead to Wall Street pressure to lower costs, not increase them.
President Obama supported the fast-food worker’s right to strike at a rally in Milwaukee over Labor Day weekend, although he did reinforce his impudent $10.10 minimum wage compromise:
Obama has also been pressuring Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a significant jump from the current $7.25. However, according to Fells, fast food workers will keep fighting until they have $15 and a union, even if the federal minimum were to raise.