(NaturalNews) Thousands of service sector employees in at least seven major U.S. cities walked off the job recently in protest of wages they say are far too low to make an honest living. Workers at McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and KFC locations across America skipped work in solidarity on July 29 to call for a near-doubling of the current average hourly rate for fast food workers, which hovers around $8 per hour.
This latest walk-off piggybacks earlier ones that took place in both New York City and Detroit back in April, when protesters took to the streets to demand "living" wages, that is, wages that would allow them to live more comfortably. Some fast food employers responded to this rallying cry by slightly increasing employees' wages and offering them more hours, but this was apparently not enough to meet their demands.
"A lot of the workers are living in poverty, you know, not being able to afford to put food on the table or take the train to work," says Jonathan Westin, Director of Fast Food Forward, a group that helped organize recent protests in New York City. "The workers are striking over the fact that they can't continue to maintain their families on the wages they're being paid in the fast food industry."
Too many people relying on fast food jobs as primary employment
The reason this has suddenly become a problem, though, is that the fast food workforce has changed dramatically over the past several decades. What used to be after-school work for high school and college aged individuals, for example, has become primary employment for many low-income families. Fast food employment, in other words, has traditionally been fill-in or temporary employment for individuals with few marketable skills, not a full-time, long-term career endeavor.
"It's called 'unskilled labor' for a reason," wrote one commenter on a Washington Post (WP) piece about the walk-outs. "If you want to make more money, get a skill that's worth something."
As harsh as this might sound, the reality of the situation is that fast food pay rates are driven primarily by market demand. The more people that are willing and able to work for low wages, the more low-wage jobs there will be. Not to mention the fact that many years' worth of anti-business policies by the federal government, including the upcoming Obamacare mandates, have eliminated many high-paying jobs in favor of more unskilled labor jobs (but this is a topic for another article).
Forcing companies to raise wages to artificial levels will just put them out of business, cause more job losses
Advocates of higher wages for fast food workers cite high CEO and executive salaries as proof that money is not the issue. And yet they overlook the fact that, if fast food work was actually worth higher pay, companies would naturally pay more to obtain and keep the employees they need. On the contrary, simple economics dictates that fast food work is just not worth much more than about $8 per hour, regardless of whether or not this amount is enough to sustain a family living in New York City.
"This is nothing more than a ploy by the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) to do to the fast-food business what they did to the maker of Twinkies," wrote another WP commenter about the situation. "They'll point out all the 'inequities' in the pay and decry the greedy franchisees and corporate management ... right until one or more go bankrupt ... just like GM, Chrysler and Twinkies."