Fast food workers across America strike over 'too low' wages

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: low wages, fast food workers, strike

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(NaturalNews) Workers at some of America's most iconic fast food joints are banding together and collectively demanding higher wages, according to new reports. Employees from McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, Domino's and various other fast food restaurants across the New York City metropolitan area gathered together recently in Times Square to vent their frustrations and draw attention to the fact that it is near impossible to make an honest living in the Big Apple on just $7.25 per hour, which is the current minimum wage.

As reported by NBC News and others, hundreds of fast food workers walked off the job on April 4, leaving burgers, pizzas and burritos to make themselves. Organized by a coalition of labor, community and clergy groups called Fast Food Forward, the resulting protests left area fast food joints struggling to operate their businesses, including at least one Burger King restaurant that had to open 15 minutes late due to a lack of employees.

"You don't have a life when you get paid this little," said one man named Scott to CNN Money. Scott has been working for Domino's Pizza in New York City for roughly three years, and still makes a mere $5.45 per hour plus tips. Because of these low wages, Scott must also work two other jobs just to pay his bills. "And with no benefits, we can't afford to get sick. My body is breaking down," he added.

Many others are feeling Scott's pain, lamenting their $9-per-hour average wage, which is the standard for New York City's roughly 50,000 fast food workers. When averaged out throughout the entire year, fast food workers in New York City are earning about $18,500 per year, or $4,500 lower than the U.S. Census Bureau's poverty income threshold of $23,000 for a family of four.

"To think that in 2013 we're having the same discussion about gaining a respectable wage and the right to organize as we had in 1968 is ludicrous," says Minister Kirsten John Foy, a civil rights activist at the National Action Network in Brooklyn who participated in the protests. Foy is one of many who is currently pushing to expand the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 per hour.

Can small business franchise owners really afford to pay what fast food workers are demanding?

KFC, Burger King and McDonald's would not comment specifically on the strikes, according to reports, but these companies did offer some insight that demonstrates the complexity of the situation. Most of the stores operating under each of these brands are franchises, which means they are owned by individual small business owners rather than the parent company itself. Simply upping the minimum wage to $15, in other words, would put many of these franchises out of business, or at the very least require them to make drastic changes to their current business model.

"The workers aren't in a fight with management, they're in a fight with technology," says Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute, as quoted by NBC News. "(At some point) the cost of service is going to get trumped by the customers' demand for lower prices," he adds, noting that fast food workers can be replaced by technologies like burger-making robots.

According to the National Employment Law Project, lower-wage occupations like fast food employee made up a bulk of the recovery growth in the job market following the most recent recession. These lower-wage jobs replaced many mid- and higher-wage jobs, which has caused many individuals to take very serious pay cuts or take on multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.

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